The coronavirus pandemic has turned everything up on its head for many people. With millions of people suffering financially from job loss or unforeseen health care expenses, evictions are rising on a nationwide scale.
Landlords don’t want to evict tenants as much as tenants don’t want to be evicted, but everyone is trying to stay afloat in these unprecedented times.
Know Your Rights
Many will be dealing with eviction this year, here’s what to do if you are one of those people.
You can’t get evicted without a prior notice warning you of your breach of the lease agreement. This notice is often called “pay or quit” or “cure or quit”
- Pay or quit – this usually occurs when the rent has not been paid in full by the agreed time. This notice gives you a specified period to pay the remaining balance or move out.
- Cure or quit – you’ll receive this if you have breached a term in your lease agreement. For example, having pets on the property when was prohibited. The notice will give you a period to “cure” the lease breach
These notices allow you to either rectify the situation, make a deal with your landlord, or seek help (financially or legally).
It’s important to note that landlords are legally not allowedto threaten their renters. Your landlord can not tell you that you are going to be evicted. They must follow the proper process and allow you the opportunity to respond, seek help, and rectify.
Make sure all communication between you and your landlord is done professionally. Make sure everything is in writing and keep a paper trail. This way you can not be undermined or pinned into a corner. If your landlord does not conduct this process legally, it will backfire on them in court.
In the wake of the pandemic, many states issued eviction bans to protect tenants financially affected by the virus. This is to protect those who are facing job uncertainty or increased medical bills. The last thing recently unemployed people need is to also become homeless!
These protections are in place to help tenants stay stable and on their feet through these hard times.
Check to see if your state still has an eviction ban in place or if they offer any benefits to assist with accommodation hardships.
Right to Contest
Dealing with leases and tenancy agreements in the face of an eviction notice can be overwhelming and intimidating. If you aren’t experienced or educated in your rights as a tenant, it’s very easy to get swept away in the eviction wave without realizing you have the right to challenge it.
If you are faced with the possibility of eviction, don’t panic.
The legal system and court processes are technically designed to protect your rights. You have every right to contest an eviction notice if you think it has been unfairly issued or you are under undue stress.
The Eviction Process
As long as you open, read and respond to a communication from your landlord and tenancy court then you should never be in the position that you receive an eviction notice telling you to leave by tomorrow—not like in the movies!.
The eviction process is designed so that you have every opportunity to fix the breach in the lease agreement, respond to any notices, seek financial, or legal help and have plenty of notice of any action that needs to take place.
You should not end up surprised or blindsided by anything during this process.
If you have not received any eviction papers or notices yet, but you know you are falling behind in rent payments and are anxious you may end up evicted—take action immediately.
When you are beginning to struggle to meet your tenancy requirements you should seek help
- Reach out to local tenancy or financial organizations that are designed to support and educate.
- Contact your local government to find out what kind of benefits and support you are eligible for
- Talk to financial aid groups for support in managing finances
Even if none of the above helps you keep your head quite above the eviction waters, they will show your landlord and the court that you are giving your “best effort” to avoid the situation and are committed to trying to adhere to the lease agreement.
If you are unable to pay or cure the lease breach then your landlord can file a notion of eviction in a tenancy court, where you will have the right to defend yourself.
This can be a stressful time but make sure that you engage and turn up. Failure to appear in court will mean you will be evicted by default and you may not get the opportunity to turn the process around.
When preparing for court, you should come prepared with legal aid. Ensure every communication you have had regarding your tenancy has been documented and bring this with you.
Documentation of your financial struggles and your efforts to rectify the situation will also support your case.
Goodwill Goes a Long Way
Believe it or not, the eviction process isn’t fun for landlords. Just like you, they don’t want to have to deal with it.
Many landlords will understand your hardship in these crazy times and will be open to negotiation. This doesn’t mean negotiation of you not paying your rent (your landlord needs to eat, too), but rather discussing a way for you to catch up on your payments, such as a payment.
Maintaining a good relationship with your landlord from the get-go can help you avoid an eviction notice. Open, honest and friendly communication goes a long way in our society.
Not everyone will always respond the same way to you, but maintaining grace and calm throughout awkward conversations will help you keep your head on straight and navigate your way through your struggles.
There is no need to be ashamed of reaching out for help. You are a valued member of society and deserve to be supported. There are so many organizations committed to supporting tenants in times of hardship.
If you are struggling to meet your rent payments due to circumstances far beyond your control such as job loss, Hours cut, medical bills, car bills, or any unexpected bill then you can reach out for financial help.
There are still benefits out there for those affected by the pandemic, but also financial assistance for all other manners of issues. Contact your local organization and governments to find out what may be available to you.
Navigating the eviction process is a scary time particularly if you aren’t well versed in the law. Lots of the terms used and notices issued may not make any sense to you.
The best defense is to source legal aid. Many states have free legal aid for housing issues. Check with your local government.
If you feel you have been heavily wronged by your landlord acting unprofessionally and unlawfully, then many lawyers will take your case for free if they know for sure they can win it and take their cut.
Getting caught up in any legal proceedings is always stressful. If you are struggling with your rent payments then the chances are high you are already going through a lot of undue personal stress that has put you in that situation and now eviction is adding fuel to the fire.
Don’t let it get the best of you. Reach out to your support systems – friends, family, partners – and let them provide you with emotional support. You are allowed to feel scared, sad, and stressed. You are allowed to not be okay.
Just know that no one wants to see you fail. You will be okay in the end if you use your support systems to help you through this process.
Contact your local tenancy organization to see if they offer some free counseling about the emotional side of the process.
Sometimes, despite best efforts, goodwill, and hard work people get evicted anyway. You may find that although you tried your best to meet your agreement, you just weren’t able to hold up your tenancy.
If the proceedings go ahead and both you and your landlord act within the bounds of the law, you might still be on the losing end of the court proceedings.
If a financial judgment is passed against you in your eviction proceedings then this can affect your credit report and have further consequences outside of tenancy.
To remove this from your record it needs landlord agreement is to be expunged. This often means offering an olive branch and settling any amount still owed.
Past eviction can also affect your applications to new lease agreements. Tenancy proceedings happen in a court of law so are publicly available – meaning any future potential landlord can easily find out about past evictions and may affect their decision to create a lease agreement with you.
When evicted, depending on the circumstances, you may get our tenancy deposit back. This money will be helpful to support you into a new home or pay for the storage of your belongings while you are in between housing.
Being upfront with new potential landlords about your past eviction and the reasons behind it will help ease their minds of concerns. Being honest may allow them to give you a chance, but be aware they may ask for a higher security payment because of this.
If you are in the beginnings of eviction processes and you know for sure you are in the wrong with no case to keep you in your home, then many chose to leave before they can be formally evicted as not to have an eviction notice on their record.
If You Have Nowhere to Go
Eviction proceedings can go on for 1 to 6 months, depending on the state. You should make sure you are realistic and have a place to go in case you are evicted.
If you find yourself without a place to go and the time has come to move out, ask to stay with a friend or family member or contact your local charitable trust for support and housing while you get back on your feet.
Staying Stable Through It All
There are many things beyond our control. The pandemic has created a time that is uncertain and stressful putting many of us in positions where we are struggling. Job losses, medical bills, housing shortages – the list goes on!
You are not alone in your struggles.
Everyone you pass on the street is doing their best to get by, just like you. Maintaining sanity can be half the battle but know that your hard work will pay off as long as you always act with good intentions, kindness, and tenacity.
Keep your head on straight, know your rights and always reach out for help when needed.
Image by Pete Linforth.