What if losing a job, even temporarily, means you need rent relief? As states attempted to slow the spread of the coronavirus by imposing lockdowns or stay-at-home orders, paying the rent became more difficult. Even after many states lifted lockdowns, economically impacted renters wondered what relief they could get to help pay the rent or avoid eviction.
Programs for homeowners that prevent foreclosure and eviction or provide mortgage payment relief are available from the federal government, states, municipalities, and private lenders. Many programs also offer help for renters. Here's what's available, how it works, and how to get help.
- Initial eviction protection, which came from the CARES Act, expired July 25, 2020.
- Subsequent protection from the FHFA has been extended until Sept. 30, 2021.
- The Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA), 2021 offered protection through Jan. 31, 2021.
- President Joe Biden extended the nationwide moratorium on foreclosures and evictions through June 30, 2021.
- The American Rescue Plan offers additional financial assistance to renters.
- Effective April 1, 2021, the CDC extended the existing eviction moratorium through June 30, 2021.
- Some state and local governments have imposed rent eviction moratoriums of their own.
- Various social service agencies, states, and local governments also offer rent assistance.
CARES Act Eviction Protection
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, signed into law March 27, 2020, provided 120 days of eviction relief for tenants in federally backed housing, which has since expired. Specifically, you could not be served with an eviction notice until July 25, 2020. The notice had to give you 30 days to leave the property (so until Aug. 24, 2020).
During the 120-day eviction moratorium, landlords could not charge late fees, penalties, or other charges for paying rent late. The eviction moratorium did not relieve anyone of the obligation to pay rent. It merely prevented landlords from evicting tenants during that period for late or nonpayment.
Rental Housing Covered by the Eviction Moratorium
The temporary moratorium on eviction filings pertained to any rental housing that was one of the following:
- Covered under section 41411 of the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 (34 U.S.C. 12491(a))
- Covered by the rural housing voucher program under section 542 of the Housing Act of 1949 (42 U.S.C. 1490r)
- Had a federally backed mortgage or multifamily mortgage loan
Subsequent Eviction Moratoriums
On Aug. 27, 2020, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would "extend the moratoriums on single-family foreclosures and real estate owned (REO) evictions until at least Dec. 31, 2020." Following that, as part of the temporary Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA), 2021, the moratorium was extended to Jan. 31, 2021.
On his first day in office, President Biden signed an executive order extending the moratorium to at least March 31, 2021. In February, President Biden extended the order to at least June 30, 2021. On June 3, the FHFA extended the moratorium until Sept. 30, 2021.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) extended the eviction moratorium through June 2021 for single renters making $99,000 or less and couples earning $198,000 or less who declare they can't pay rent due to COVID-related hardships and would be homeless if evicted.
CARES Act Tenant-Based Rental Assistance
In terms of direct assistance with rent, the CARES Act provided the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) with an additional $17.4 billion in funding. It included money for rent assistance, housing vouchers, public housing, and housing for the elderly. For help, contact HUD Rental Assistance. In general, landlords cannot evict renters during any period in which the landlord has been granted forbearance.
Other Financial Assistance
The $2.2 trillion CARES Act and other programs also provide financial assistance that could help with housing costs, because how you use the money is not specified.
The CAA, 2021 extended eviction protections until Jan. 31, 2021, and provided $25 billion in rent assistance to individuals who had lost income due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The American Rescue Plan provides $21.55 billion in emergency rental assistance through Sept. 30, 2027, which is expected to help both renters and landlords when the funds have been distributed. The legislation also allocates:
- $5 billion in emergency housing vouchers through Sept. 30, 2030
- $750 million for tribal housing
- $100 million for rural housing
- $5 billion to assist people experiencing homelessness
Recovery benefits of $1,200 per adult individual ($2,400 for couples filing jointly) and $500 for each child age 16 and under were automatically sent after April 2020. To receive the full $1,200 ($2,400), your AGI for 2019 or 2018 must have been $75,000 ($150,000 for couples) or less. The amount you get goes down as income rises above those levels, and it disappears entirely at $99,000 ($198,000 for couples).
The second round of $600 stimulus checks went out in December 2020. And with the passing of the American Rescue Plan, $1,400 direct checks went out to those who make less than $75,000 per year, in March 2021.
Expanded unemployment benefits
After CARES Act provisions offering extended unemployment benefits expired, an executive order providing additional assistance went into effect. Under the order, the federal government was to supply $300 toward an additional $400 per week unemployment benefit, with the rest paid for by state governments. However, many legal and practical questions continued to delay the implementation of the order.
Under the CARES Act, eligibility for unemployment insurance was expanded if you lost your job during the coronavirus pandemic. After regular state benefits expired, the unemployed were eligible to receive up to an additional 13 weeks of benefits. Furthermore, they were eligible for another $600 per week.
The government also expanded these unemployment benefits to include people not ordinarily eligible, such as independent contractors, part-time employees, or participants in the gig economy.
The American Rescue Plan Act extended Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits of $300 a week through Sept. 6, 2021. The total number of weeks available was extended from 50 to 79. Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) benefits of $300 were also extended through Sept. 6, 2021.
Fannie Mae Disaster Response Network
Fannie Mae's Disaster Response Network has published a guide for renters affected by the coronavirus. Through the network, HUD-approved housing advisors provide:
- A personalized recovery assessment and action plan
- Help working with your housing situation
- Financial coaching and budgeting
- Access to Clearpoint’s Project Porchlight online tools and resources
- Ongoing check-ins to help ensure a successful recovery
Call 877-542-9723 to access the Disaster Response Network.
National average rent on a two-bedroom apartment as of February 2021.
Source: Statista March 2021.
211.org Social Services Search
The United Way sponsors the website 211.org, which provides an easy-to-use search bar. You can search by zip code or by community and state to find sources of help with rent and many other essential services. Fill in the required information, then click search to get data about available help.
State by State
Many states have taken action to pause or suspend renter evictions, at least temporarily. The table below lists those states that have halted evictions and the date the suspension ends if known. The list will be updated as it changes.
Cities and Counties Also Offer Help
Even in states without statewide assistance, many cities and counties have programs of their own. Check local and state government websites for information about coronavirus-related eviction moratoriums, rent forbearance, or rent assistance.
Advice From the National Apartment Association (NAA)
The National Apartment Association (NAA) reminds all renters who have suffered financial distress during the coronavirus crisis to reach out to landlords to explain their situations. In addition to government programs, many landlords have plans to help deal with the financial impact of the crisis.
Eviction Moratorium Plus Rent Relief
The CDC extension of the eviction moratorium through June 30, 2021, (and the more recent FHFA extension through Sept. 30, 2021,) may play a pivotal role when combined with rent relief made available by various pieces of legislation.
Although recent COVID-19 relief bills, including the American Rescue Plan, provide billions of dollars in rent relief, there has been concern that that money may not be available in time to help the nearly 10 million people the U.S. Census Bureau says currently experience housing insecurity.
Landlord and housing industry groups support rent assistance while opposing an extension of the eviction moratorium, which they say deprives landlords of the right to evict. Nonetheless, the extension plus assistance may provide long-term help for both sides.