The eviction moratorium issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expired last month.
A new one was issued Tuesday.
People facing eviction can file a declaration of their hardship with their landlord and with the court, especially if they already have received an eviction notice, said Roger Dyer, housing attorney with Mid-Missouri Legal Services.
This new moratorium runs through Oct. 3, unless extended. The purpose of this new moratorium is to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in communities with significant or high transmission rates of the virus due the Delta variant, the CDC noted.
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When people are evicted and end up in more condensed housing, either by moving in with family or friends or at shelters, viral spread is more likely, the CDC said.
What is on the eviction moratorium form?
Tenants facing issues paying rent, with the potential they could be evicted, can file a declaration with their landlord regarding this hardship. The same form can be filed with the county court.
The two-page document asks tenants specific questions about their financial situation.
There are three steps and three questions on the form.
A person first must see whether they qualify to declare. They can contact the Department of Housing and Urban Development at 1-800-569-4287 to be directed to a local housing counselor. The HUD exchange online also provides this information.
The Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services Department released a listing of agencies Wednesday that help with rental assistance, utility assistance and legal services:
- Columbia/Boone County PHHS, Utility assistance, 1005 W. Worley St., Columbia, 573-817-6430, email@example.com, como.gov/health/human-services (click on Utility Assistance);
- Central Missouri Community Action, Utility and rent/mortgage assistance, 800 N. Providence, Columbia, 573-443-1100, cmca.us;
- Love Columbia, Rent assistance, 1209 E. Walnut St., Columbia 573-256-7662, lovecolumbia.org;
- Missouri Housing Development Commission State Assistance for Housing Relief (SAFHR), Rent/mortgage assistance, 1-833-541-1599, firstname.lastname@example.org, mohousingresources.com/safhr — Local SAFHR Navigators: Love Columbia and the Salvation Army, 573-442-3229;
- Phoenix Programs, Rent assistance, 90 E. Leslie Lane, Columbia, 573-875-8880, phoenixprogramsinc.org;
- Rock the Community, Rent/mortgage assistance, 314-651-8735, email@example.com, rocthecommunity.com/index.html;
- Voluntary Action Center, Rent/mortgage assistance, 403A Vandiver Drive, Columbia, 573-874-2273, vacmo.org;
- Mid-Missouri Legal Services, Landlord/tenant legal issues, 117 N. Garth Ave., Columbia, 573-442-0116, mmls.org
If a person qualifies to file a declaration, they must do so with their landlord and keep a copy for their own files.
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Who qualifies under the eviction moratorium
How do you know whether you qualify to file a declaration with a landlord or property management company?
If a person answers yes to at least one of the following in both of these two categories, they qualify:
- Received a stimulus check (economic impact payment) in 2020 or 2021
- Was not required to report any income to the IRS in 2020
- Receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and/or Supplemental Security Disability Income (SSDI) benefits
- Expect to earn less than $99,000 or $198,000 if filing taxes jointly in 2020 or 2021
- Household income has gone down substantially
- Laid off from work
- Work hours or wages cut
- Extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses (7.5% or more of adjusted gross income for the year)
If none of the above apply in either category, then a person does not qualify. Saying yes to at least one in each category is needed.
After determining eligibility, a person then has to declare certain statements as true:
- Qualifying income level
- Live in county with high or substantial COVID-19 transmission levels
- Have done best to make timely partial payments close to full payment and has sought rental assistance
- If evicted would probably become homeless, have to move to a homeless shelter or move in with others in close quarters
- After signing — unless an agreement is reached with landlord — a person still is responsible for rent, back rent, fees, penalties or interest, following lease conditions, could still be evicted when moratorium ends, could be evicted for reasons other than not paying rent or making housing payments.
If landlords receive a declaration and violate it, they could be subject to criminal penalties, fine or imprisonment, according to the declaration form.
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Landlords can contest an eviction moratorium declaration
Even if a person fills out a declaration of their hardship, there is a chance a landlord still could contest it, Dyer said.
“At least with respect to the previous orders. I am assuming so with respect to this one as well,” he said.
Landlords can challenge a declaration’s accuracy, such as alleging evidence a tenant has the financial ability to pay or has not used the best efforts to seek alternate housing or rental assistance, Dyer said.
“They can file a motion asking the court to basically decide the tenant doesn’t qualify and we can assist (renters) in those situations,” he said. “That applies with any sort of eviction case.”
Not all people facing an eviction know about the moratorium
Dyer has come across situations where a person facing an eviction may not have previously know about the moratorium and need for a declaration.
“Sometimes the eviction has been filed, they’ve gone to court, had a judgment entered against them, and the sheriff’s department has notified they are coming within a day or two to execute the eviction,” he said.
Dyer wonders how many people know about this new moratorium and whether they need to file a new declaration form.
If a person’s situation has not changed from the last time a declaration was filed, then a new declaration is not necessary.
“As long as that original declaration form remains truthful and accurate,” Dyer said. “If circumstances are the same, then at least under the order, they do not have to file a new one.
“If it has changed or they have not filed one previously, my reading of it is they do need to file one.”
Depending on a case’s progression, Mid-Missouri Legal Services can get a declaration form filled out and filed to put a stay on an eviction with the landlord and court.
“We’ll also file a request drawing the judge’s attention to that fact and ask the judge to stay the case or execution of the eviction,” Dyer said.
Filing the declaration with the court is necessary in instances where a court case already is pending, he added.
“What I have seen is judges will take note of that and on their own issue an order with respect to that (declaration) … until the expiration of the order,” Dyer said.
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Eviction cases can take up to six weeks
Assuming a tenant is still living in a rental property, eviction cases can take upward of six weeks, which is not a lot of turnaround time for a person to find a new place to live, Dyer said.
Once a lawsuit is filed by a landlord, the first court date is set three weeks later by the judge as a return date, he added.
“In Boone County and in most counties, it is not a trial date. It is first appearance and see where parties are at,” Dyer said. “Hearings are done two weeks after the return date.”
For tenants who lose their case, there is a 10-day stay of execution. With the moratorium, however, the stay lasts until the moratorium expires, he said.
Tenants are not always immediately served with notice once the lawsuit is filed. They can receive notice four days before the first hearing date, Dyer said.
Having a pending tenant/landlord lawsuit also is a burden for renters seeking a new place, he said.
“Landlords can search for a tenant’s name on Missouri Casenet and see this pending case,” Dyer said. “Some landlords may look into it a little deeper, but some might just say red flag and not rent to that tenant.
“It’s difficult to find something in six weeks under normal circumstances, even more difficult when you have something pending on Casenet and you are in a situation where you have not been able to pay rent so you don’t have the resources to move anyway.”
Finding rental assistance in Columbia
Love Columbia and the Columbia Salvation Army can help residents facilitate State Assistance for Housing Relief Program applications.
The SAFHR program can provide for rent and utilities for up to 12 months, going back to April 2020, and for up to three months in the future, according to a news release from the Missouri Housing Development Commission.
The commission is working to distribute $593 million in rent assistance. The money does not come from Love or the Salvation Army, but directly from the commission to landlords, unless there is a situation where money goes to the tenant instead.