Salt Lake City, Utah. A state freeze on most evictions enacted last year is due to expire on July 31, after the Biden government extended the date by a month. The moratorium imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in September was the only instrument keeping millions of tenants in their homes. Many of them lost their jobs during the coronavirus pandemic and were months behind on their rent.
The landlords have successfully challenged the order in court, arguing that they also had bills to pay. They indicated that tenants could access more than $ 45 billion in federal funds that are used to pay rents and related expenses.
Tenant lawyers say the money was slow to distribute and it would take more time to distribute and repay the landlords. Without an extension, they feared an increase in evictions and lawsuits to expel tenants who are behind with their rents.
According to the US Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey, around 3.2 million people in the US said on June 7th that they would be evicted in the next two months. The bi-weekly survey measures the social and economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic through online responses from a representative sample of US households.
The situation in Utah
What is the status of the eviction moratoria in Utah?
Utah was one of several states that passed a moratorium last year to halt eviction procedures during the strictest pandemic-related lockdowns in Spring 2020, but it has long expired and only the CDC moratorium remains. The US Census estimates that there are currently 16,000 people in Utah at risk of eviction and foreclosure.
The CDC’s moratorium only applies to people unable to pay rent, and evictions for other reasons continued to occur in Utah, said Aro Han, a program attorney with People’s Legal Aid.
What is being done to help people in Utah at risk of eviction?
Utah has approximately $ 180 million federal funding to help tenants with outstanding rents, utility payments, and other expenses. The state had paid out $ 23.5 million in rental subsidies by the end of May, after around 7,600 applications were received, according to the State Department of Workforce Services.
The money can be used for rent and other expenses such as utilities and overdue rents. Tenants who earn 80% of the median income in the region and who are in financial distress or instability due to COVID qualify. There is some assistance that is not related to COVID. Still, there are some landlords who are reluctant to accept emergency rental assistance, said Francisca Blanc, advocacy and public relations coordinator for the Utah Housing Coalition.
How do the Utah courts conduct eviction hearings?
Eviction requests fell significantly in April 2020 with the moratorium going into effect and, according to the Housing Coalition, were around half the total for 2019 for most of the remainder of the year, with the exception of August.
Still, their records show that hundreds of people were displaced every month even in 2020.
People who need help paying rent can apply for emergency assistance at rentrelief.utah.gov.
What’s the Affordability in the State of Utah‘s Major Rental Markets?
The Utah housing market has tightened in recent years, and that trend only picked up during the pandemic, with purchase prices increasing about 31% in one year and more people staying in the rental market, according to the Salt Lake Board of Realtors .
According to a June report by the apartmentlist.com website, rental rates have also continued to rise, up 9.4% over the past year. That’s far more than prices across the country, which rose 5.3% last year, this report found.
Are evictions expected to lead to an increase in homelessness?
The end of the moratorium will definitely increase homelessness, said Blanc. In the first quarter of 2021, homelessness had already increased due to evictions, she said.
Han doesn’t anticipate a steep spike in evictions, but she is concerned about another provision in Utah law that allows landlords to collect three times the daily rent if a renter breaks the 3-day window to evict a property .
“So if a tenant got into a difficult time during the pandemic and moves out a month after an eviction notice has expired, he is actually liable for the equivalent of three months’ rent,” Han wrote in an email. “I expect a significant increase in debt collection cases and bankruptcy filings that are directly related to housing debts.”