As expanded unemployment benefits and federal, state, and local eviction moratoriums lapse, lawmakers are struggling to finds ways to extend these benefits. As a result, millions of Americans are in danger of being evicted. While the economy was enjoying a record setting expansion, the housing market was in trouble before the virus hit. This is especially true to rental housing, as a little fewer than four million evictions are filed each year. These were statistics before the virus; now, with unemployment above 10 percent, tens of millions of households could be at risk of eviction. With rising coronavirus infections and the unemployment rate projected to stay above 10 percent for at least a year, experts are predicting a “tsunami of evictions.” Even before the lapse of eviction moratoriums, landlords have been using harsh tactics to remove tenants.
Housing lawyers have seen an increase in landlords resorting to filing “restraining orders” against tenants, using a process that is typically reserved for stalking and harassment cases. In California, there have been cases where tenants’ electricity has been shut off, locks were changed, and landlords have even begun knocking down kitchens and bathrooms, making spaces uninhabitable. Other property owners have delivered paperwork to tenants that appear to be formal eviction lawsuits, when in reality the documents lack legitimate court summons. In at least one county, the sheriff’s department has directly carried out evictions and the local courts have allowed them, despite statewide orders. Activists say these harsh tactics to evict renters have been on the rise, and with more tenants falling into debt, many fear the tactics will become more common.
In the meantime, experts are trying to solve the collapse of an entire system when millions of people won’t be able to make payments. While ideas have been thrown out there how to handle this upcoming fallout, tenant groups and some housing experts are rallying around the demand to “cancel rent.” These groups argue that erasing renters’ debts and ensuring they stay housed is the only reasonable wat out of this crisis. The government continues to rescue industries hurt by the pandemic, a bailout for tenants and small property owners should be possible. Although politicians have brushed aside rent cancelation demands, a severe wave of displacement through mass evictions, could make it impossible for evictions to ignore.
Americans have been dealing with the Coronavirus pandemic for months, and things are not about to get easier. With eviction moratoriums and the expended unemployment benefits lapsing, many experts fear that a “tsunami of evictions” will sweep across the U.S. Landlords have used harsh tactics like restraining orders, turning electricity off, and changing locks to keep tenants who cannot pay rent out. As the government continues to bailout industries that have been hurt by the pandemic, it should bailout the tenants and small property owners that are at risk of being evicted or lose their property.