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PROTECTION? By: Renee McElroy, M.S., Ph.D., AFC®

TouchStones Financial Wellness Services, Inc https://www.touchstonesfinancialwellness.org

On August 26, 2021, the United States Supreme Court issued a decision ending the CDC eviction moratorium. If you are facing eviction now, I have provided some important information and resources below that may provide some relief. Even though federal protections have ended, some state or local moratoriums are still preventing evictions. Visit the Eviction Lab to see if your state or local government is stopping or putting a hold on evictions at this time. Renters and landlords may also be able to apply for financial assistance to cover rent, utilities, or other housing expenses. If you’re unable to make your rent payments, you’re not alone, there are options and resources to help you get back on your feet.

Financial help is available for renters and landlords Federal rental assistance is currently being rolled out to communities across the country. State and local programs are taking applications now from both renters and landlords for emergency rental assistance, which may help cover back rent and utilities. Whether you are facing an eviction lawsuit or worried about getting evicted in the future, it’s important to understand your rights and what steps you need to take. I have provided some general steps below to help you in the process: Step 1: Talk with your landlord about making a repayment plan. Find out if your landlord is willing to work with you or if they plan to file an eviction lawsuit. Here is the information to start the conversation. Start the conversation with these tips Clear the air If it’s been hard to have a conversation about your money struggles, or if you’ve been unavailable to talk, make a point to say so, and recognize any part you may have played in delaying this important conversation. Acknowledge the hardships you're both facing Many renters have been struggling financially, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Landlords, if your tenant is facing an income shortfall, you can acknowledge what your tenant is going through and learn more about their efforts to make ends meet. Renters, explain what you’ve been doing to try and catch up on rent.

Explain why you want to work things out Landlords, don’t assume your tenant knows where you’re coming from. Let your tenant know what you appreciate about them and why you would like them to stay. You can also let them know if you depend on rental income to cover the mortgage, insurance, and other costs. Renters, start by helping your landlord understand why this conversation is important to you. What would it mean for you and your family to remain housed where you are? Is your home close to work and school? What do you appreciate about your landlord, your home, or your neighborhood? Don’t assume that your landlord knows. Eviction can be costly and difficult for renters and landlords. In addition to applying for emergency rental assistance, renters and landlords may benefit from having a conversation about options for a repayment plan. Landlords can start the process in most areas. Many rental assistance programs are accepting applications from both landlords and renters. Where renters can apply, they often need help from landlords to complete the application process. Working together, you’ll have a better chance of getting rental assistance funds. Consider your options: Renters, be realistic about what you can afford to pay each month. Don’t overpromise—your relationship is built on trust. Landlords, repayment agreements can help you avoid a long and expensive eviction process. If you do come to an agreement, put all the details in writing to make sure you're on the same page. This way you can refer back to a single document. Make sure you agree on how much you owe, including any late fees or other charges.

Step 2: Talk with a lawyer, don’t delay. If you received a demand for rent, an eviction notice, or an eviction lawsuit, you’re in the right place. We can help you understand your rights and what next steps to take. If your landlord is threatening to evict you, or you need help understanding your rights, talk to a lawyer. You may qualify for free legal aid, based on your income. Contact your local bar association or legal aid office If you are a servicemember, contact your local Legal Assistance Office Step 3: Help with Tenant Debt & Collection Rights: An Accredited Financial counselor or Certified Housing counselor can help you make a plan based on your situation and needs. Know your rights under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA): When you owe money to your landlord or utility company and someone else is trying to collect the money, that person could be a debt collector. Maybe a lawyer or law firm is representing your landlord, or maybe a collection agency is trying to collect the back rent you owe. If so, the lawyer, law firm, or company may be a debt collector under federal law. Federal law says that debt collectors can’t use unfair or deceptive practices to try and collect a debt. This means if a debt collector harasses you or makes false or misleading statements to collect rental debt, they may be breaking federal law.

Notice about eviction protections: Between May 3 and July 31, 2021, a debt collector trying to evict you for unpaid rent generally was required to give you a notice about the CDC moratorium. A debt collector was required to give you this notice on the same day that it gave you an eviction notice or filed an eviction against you, if the CDC Order might reasonably apply to you. If you didn’t get this notice, tell the lawyer who is representing you in the eviction. You can also submit a complaint or call (855) 411-2372 to report debt collectors who break federal law. Report a bad landlord Your rights as a tenant are usually spelled out in your rental agreement and state or local laws. Visit LegalFAQ.org to learn about tenant rights in your state. Your landlord cannot: Force you out by changing your locks without a court order Demand fees, interest, or other charges that you did not agree to Refuse to make necessary repairs Fail to pay for utilities under their control or Endanger the health and safety of tenants Stay in your home as a survivor of domestic violence: Federal law may protect you from being evicted, losing your housing subsidy, or having your application for housing denied because of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking committed against you. However, federal laws don't stop landlords from evicting abusers for committing domestic violence against you, even during the pandemic.

Report housing discrimination Landlords generally cannot: Sexually harass you Refuse to rent to you Evict you, or Change or set different rules for your rental agreement because of your race, color, national origin (country of origin or ancestry), religion, sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity), familial status (pregnancy and families with children), or disability . If you or your landlord receive federal financial assistance for housing, you are also protected from housing discrimination based on age.


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