Eviction moratorium through December could protect 40 million; Lowcountry groups offer guidance

Charleston, S.C. (WCBD) / Washington (NEXSTAR)– A new moratorium to go into effect Friday could protect up to 40 million Americans. White House deputy press secretary Brian Morgenstern said, the protection goes beyond the eviction moratorium in the CARES Act that expired at the end of July.

President Donald Trump ordered the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to halt nearly all evictions until the end of the year. Effectively immediately, the order delays — not forgives — late payments.

“It’s important to provide this relief to families all around the country,” Morgenstern said. “It is in the public health interest to stop people being evicted. We don’t want people having to go to shelters or other group gatherings and really risk being exposed.”

Housing Attorney Nicole Paluzzi said, Charleston Pro Bono has seen a spike in requests for legal assistance.

“This is not just a problem for people who are on a lower tax bracket. This is something that is impacting people who own properties, people who have had great work history, and economic stability, people who have experienced COVID-19 and have had an incredible health expense,” said Paluzzi.

To qualify, renters must make less than $99,000 annually and prove they have lost income due to the pandemic and have no other housing options.

Unlike the CARES Act protection, the moratorium still allows landlords to charge late fees and penalties that would be added to the lump sum payment due at the end of the year.

Proponents like Paluzzi argue that homelessness would further destabilize the economy. She said housing is shown to increase someone’s chances of getting hired and keeping a job.

“One of the few things this summer that has given a lot of our clients hope is that this may go into effect in the fall, and [with] flu season on top of Coronavirus and kids going back to school… they will have a secure house at least to the end of the year,” she said.

Opponents like the National Apartment Association said the order is concerning and hurts landlords who still need to make payments.

“Without direct rental assistance, rents cannot be paid, and owners face a financial crisis of their own by not being able to maintain properties and pay their mortgages or property taxes. This action risks creating a cascade that will further harm the economy, amplify the housing affordability crisis and destroy the rental housing industry. This global housing crisis cannot be blamed on the rental housing industry, nor can the industry bear the brunt of the pandemic alone. We need balanced, reasonable solutions for all Americans.”

National Apartment Association

South Carolinians facing evictions and housing-related legal issues as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic are encouraged to call a legal assistance hotline sponsored by the South Carolina Bar and South Carolina Legal Services. People may call 1-833-958-2266 toll-free any time.

You can apply for legal services at Charleston Pro Bono Legal Services. or the South Carolina Legal Services.