The heads of three federal agencies are urging state and local governments to enact or extend their own eviction moratoriums until emergency rental assistance is processed after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had exceeded its authority in putting a nationwide eviction moratorium in place.
The government agencies are urging governors, mayors and state courts to not allow tenants to be evicted before they have the chance to apply for rental assistance, and “no eviction should move forward until that application has been processed.”
U.S. Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Marcia L. Fudge, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Janet L. Yellen, and Attorney General of the U.S. Department of Justice Merrick B. Garland sent a letter to state and local government leaders addressing the eviction moratorium, according to a release.
“Our three departments are working closely together and with other agencies across the federal government to make rental assistance available to households in need,” the letter said.
“We also know we cannot address this challenge alone. State and local governments play a crucial role as administrators of programs like Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) and as leaders of their own housing agencies, judiciary systems, and other components of government that are essential to keeping Americans in their homes. We are urging you to exercise your own authorities-as states, cities, and counties representing millions of Americans already have to take action to prevent unnecessary evictions, including:
- “Enacting state and local eviction moratoriums during the remainder of the public health emergency. Six states and the District of Columbia already have eviction moratoriums in place. As the president called for, we are encouraging all other state and local governments to use their legal authorities to appropriately put in place or extend their own eviction moratoriums.
- “Working with state and local courts to require landlords to apply for ERA before they commence eviction proceedings. State and local governments or courts should ensure that all tenants have the opportunity to apply for rental assistance before any proceedings begin, and landlords seeking eviction should be required to apply for rental assistance first – a policy already implemented in some states and localities.
- “Staying eviction proceedings while an ERA application is pending. By taking this step, as some states and localities already have, courts can ensure that tenants have a fair opportunity to apply for federal aid and that unnecessary evictions are avoided. While we call on courts to stay eviction proceedings, state and local governments must also speed the delivery of rental assistance to meet courts’ deadlines.
- “Using ERA and American Rescue Plan State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds to support the right to counsel and eviction-diversion strategies. Tenants are more likely to avoid eviction and remain stably housed when they have access to legal representation. Legal counsel can also aid in the successful completion of ERA applications. We encourage state and local governments to use ERA and Fiscal Recovery Funds to launch right-to-counsel programs and invest in court navigators and diversion programs.
- “Helping tenants navigate the ERA application process. The Treasury Department has issued recent guidance streamlining the ERA application process, for example, by making clear that grantees can rely on self-attestation from tenants for certain eligibility requirements. State and local governments can continue to build on these efforts by removing unnecessary barriers to ERA funds.”
The letter said the ERA program and the state and local fiscal-recovery funds have provided tens of billions of dollars to support renters and landlords. The Treasury Department reported recently than about 89 percent of the funds had yet not gotten into the hands of landlords or tenants due to state and local processing delays.
“It is critical that renters be given the chance to receive that aid before being subject to eviction. Many state and local governments are working hard to get rental assistance to those in need as quickly as possible, and these policies will help ensure renters are not evicted before those resources reach them.
“We applaud the efforts of the state and local governments that have already taken these and other actions to prevent unnecessary evictions, as we know many of you have. However, we also know more must be done and that effective and comprehensive policies to prevent unnecessary evictions have never been more urgent. We stand ready to partner with and support you in any way we can to protect renters and landlords and make programs like emergency rental assistance as effective as possible,” the letter said.