Those promoting eviction moratoriums hope to help renters and provide them with cover during tough times, such as pandemics. However, in my case, the eviction moratorium has prolonged a problem, rather than solved one.
The recent eviction moratorium enacted through the CARES Act provided a safety net to residents across the United States and in Colorado who may not have been able to afford full or partial rent due to COVID-19 income or job loss. The moratorium provided cover for these residents until the expiration on July 25, 2020; however, now the Center for Disease Control has set forth its moratorium which doesn’t expire until Dec. 31, 2020. But, the eviction moratoriums only kick the can down the road rather than providing solutions to renters and rental housing providers. The moratorium allows residents to get behind on rent, some of whom are so far behind on rent, they will never be able to recover. Since the CARES Act moratorium has ended, the federal government has not issued solutions for residents to be able to catch up on rent, nor has it provided any solutions for rental housing providers to be able to collect rent during the time of the moratorium. The best way to help renters is through direct rental assistance.
Currently, if a housing provider is trying to collect rent from a resident who is now behind, the only solution is an eviction. The residents who reside in the 12 units I own are mostly lower-income and they are unable — or, in some instances, unwilling — to pay back rent. Making rent payments before the pandemic was already a struggle in some cases. Eviction is not the solution I seek. I’m in search of a solution that helps my residents catch up on rent, when it’s no fault of their own that they were out of work or their hours were reduced at work.
I need a solution that will allow the books on my two properties to become whole again. While some of the residents at my two communities were out of work, the bills for the community continued, as did the mortgage, lawn maintenance, taxes, utilities, refrigerator repairs, etc. Mortgage payments represent only 38% of a housing provider’s total business costs, and the moratorium on 100% of the two communities I own does not equate to a solution for my residents or for me.
If residents across the U.S. and Colorado are forced to end work or reduce hours through no fault of their own, there has to be solutions for the residents, and the companies who the residents are indebted to, such as utilities, credit cards, banks, cars, housing providers among the many other companies that residents pay monthly.
Of course, there are some state and local aid programs available to help those who are most in need; and either me or my tenants have applied for all of those programs and are left awaiting a response or being asked for information we have already supplied. However, a problem of this magnitude requires additional solutions from the federal government. Residents should not be at fault, and neither should the companies who lend products, services, or homes to the residents.
Finally, now that we know how to better navigate this COVID-19 pandemic and life is resuming back to normal, housing providers throughout the United States must review rental history criteria policies. Residents should not be held accountable for late payments or back-rent owned because of the forced job or income loss due to the pandemic.
The tenants I’ve been working with are so grateful to find a home in my communities and are doing what they can to help during the pandemic. Some have been watering the lawn since the sprinklers broke at one community, mowing, and cleaning stairs and gutters. These residents are grateful and thankful to still have a home.
Eviction moratoriums are not solutions nor sustainable for the rental housing market ecosystem. If another version of the CARES Act comes into play, it is important to include rental housing providers in the process. If they do, I know that policymakers would learn that direct rental assistance is the only sustainable option.
Gail Steger owns two properties with 12 units, one in Arapahoe County and one in Adams County.