Who CARES? | Urban Living
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Who CARES?

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As Congress battles over another pandemic bail-out bill, the CARES Act expires. For many, the $600 unemployment checks and the $1,200 relief check were great, but even better was the rental relief for tenants.

If you aren't renting or a landlord, then the "eviction moratorium" probably flew right by you. The law, created in March, applied to any landlord with tenants living in a "covered dwelling" as defined by the CARES Act. Basically, the owner/landlord could not evict a tenant due to nonpayment of rent nor charge any late fees for not paying rent during the moratorium period. This law covered not just apartments but any property with a federally backed mortgage loan on it, including nursing homes, group homes, residential facilities, mobile homes, condos and single-family dwellings.

Landlords need to wait 120 days to collect rents and, if necessary, evict tenants. If landlords opted for eviction, they had to give a 30-day notice to tenants to evict. For nonpaying tenants, the landlord could not rent to a new tenant for at least 180 days, but the tenant would owe back rent for 120 days of the moratorium. The law did not erase debt/rent being owed to landlords but deferred it from March 27 to July 24. Now what happens?

Without government help, we may see massive evictions and that would especially hurt low-income renters. Studies show the U.S. has lost almost 3 million affordable housing units in the past few years, and locally we don't see large low-income housing projects being built by developers. Granted, some forward-thinking locals are building apartment buildings with a small percentage of low-income units, but the majority of available new construction apartments are over $2,000 per unit per month for two bedrooms in the Salt Lake Valley.

None of this is good for either party, as both landlords and their renters feel the pain of this economy. Many landlords have mortgages they have to pay, so they need to go to their lenders and ask for a moratorium on their monthly loan payments, while they wait for tenants to start making payments again. If the landlord doesn't have a federally guaranteed loan, then he or she might not have to abide by CARES Act rules and can opt to evict tenants in arrears of payments. If the government doesn't provide financial help to tenants who've been furloughed or lost jobs due to COVID-19 in this next batch of assistance, then we may see a surge of homelessness in every city in this country. Also, there aren't enough Section 8 (low-income) housing units available to help make a dent in the surge of people looking for lower-cost housing.

What's sad is that interest rates on mortgages are so low that mortgage payments can be cheaper than rent, but when you don't have a job you can't qualify for a mortgage!