JACKSONVILLE, Fla – On Saturday, Americans unable to pay rent because of the pandemic could be facing eviction.
The federal ban on evictions, a moratorium imposed last fall by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is set to expire. President Joe Biden has called for lawmakers to extend the moratorium, but the White House said Thursday it will allow the measure to expire as scheduled.
It’s a source of concern for renters and landlords alike. Those who have fallen behind on their rent payments could be kicked out of their homes, while landlords have said they’re also struggling because rent has gone uncollected.
“What I’ve seen continue to be an issue is the rollout of the rental assistance. I think specifically in our area there have been a lot of obstacles to getting that money out timely,” said Mary DeVries, the housing chief for Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, a nonprofit law firm that provides free legal assistance to low-income individuals and families.
JALA helps tenants involved in housing disputes. DeVries said the nonprofit firm has been flooded with calls from renters who have fallen behind on payments and are increasingly concerned they could be forced out on the street.
“We certainly are advising tenants of the different possibilities and to be prepared,” DeVries told News4Jax. “But if they’re not able to come up with a solution and they can’t work something out with their landlord, then they are facing the real possibility of being evicted next week or the following week.”
She was not confident as of Friday the moratorium would be extended again.
President Biden said he wants the moratorium extended until Dec. 31 but said doing so would require an act of Congress. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, acknowledged the issue Friday but indicated she doesn’t have the votes to get it passed. Instead, she’s calling for help from the CDC.
“CDC, you have defined this, and these people have not gotten the money,” Pelosi said. “I think this is something that will work out. It isn’t about any more money, the money is there, resting in localities and governor’s offices across the country.”
James Taylor, a landlord who lives in Clay County, said the ban has caused him financial hardship.
“Assistance should not be permanent, it should be temporary,” said Taylor, adding that he believes many people “milk the system.”
Taylor said landlords, especially mom and pop operations, have bills to pay too.
“I don’t feel that the government has any right to interfere with my private contract,” he said.
Nationwide, Pelosi said $50 billion has been allocated for rental assistance, but only about $3 billion has been given out. That money, she said, could help both renters and landlords fill the gaps.
In Northeast Florida, people can apply for rental assistance by calling groups such as the United Way at 211. Tenants and landlords might also be able to apply for Florida’s emergency rent assistance program. Duval County residents can call the city of Jacksonville’s emergency assistance program at 904-255-2469.
Know Your Rights
JALA has put together a one-sheet for renters to understand their rights. Click here to see it or view the embedded version below.