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New eviction order: The truth about moratorium and protections

President Trump's executive order on evictions doesn't actually renew protections. Here's what you need to know.

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The sheriff's deputy supervises as renters hurry to load up a moving truck ahead of the arrival of an eviction team.

John Moore/Getty

For the first time since March, first-time jobless claims came down from 1 million -- however minimally -- totaling 963,000 last week. The change doesn't mean much, however, for those facing a housing crisis that looms on the horizon. Up to 40 million people -- 40% of US renters, according to Statista -- are predicted to be at risk of eviction in the next several months, despite an executive order President Donald Trump signed last weekend. 

Since talks between Democrats and Republicans around another stimulus package have halted, millions of Americans now face an uncertain future. At issue is the fact that Trump's order doesn't actually stop evictions today (read excerpts from the text below), and it isn't clear exactly when -- or in what form -- an eviction moratorium would take place. The eviction protections guaranteed by the CARES Act expired July 31.

During a press conference Tuesday, Trump said his administration is putting a stop to evictions, but didn't specify how. 

In addition to lapsed housing protections, three out of 10 laid-off Americans also face food insecurity. Without the certainty of a future stimulus package or more fleshed-out directives from the White House, there's concern the situation could worsen.

Here's everything we know about what the eviction order does and doesn't cover, the one protection that remains for you until Aug. 24 and how to find help if you're facing a potential eviction. We update this story often.

No, the eviction moratorium was not extended over the weekend

The wording is legalese, but also clear enough. It starts out strong:

The CARES Act imposed a temporary moratorium on evictions of certain renters subject to certain conditions. That moratorium has now expired, and there is a significant risk that this will set off an abnormally large wave of evictions.

It then changes course (emphasis ours):

The Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Director of CDC shall consider whether any measures temporarily halting residential evictions of any tenants for failure to pay rent are reasonably necessary to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 from one State or possession into any other State or possession.

The order stipulates four steps of government action, none of which would stop evictions immediately:

  • Investigate whether it's necessary to stop evictions as a way to help keep the coronavirus from spreading, presumably from people crossing state lines looking for new housing, sharing housing with others or moving into shelters. 
  • Identify ways to give renters and landlords financial assistance.
  • "Encouraging and providing assistance" to various organizations or individuals to help guard against evictions and foreclosures, though it isn't clear if this includes financial help. 
  • Review existing "authorities and resources," which could include government programs.

Although the order gives the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development the green light to explore ways to fund financial assistance to tenants who are behind on rent, the executive order stopped short of setting up such a fund or banning evictions. In other words, without further action from the Trump administration or Congress, nothing has really changed -- yet.

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Worried about making rent? You're not alone. 

Josh Miller/CNET


What happens now that eviction protections are over?

Eviction notices are now legally allowed to proceed and evictions can begin starting Aug. 24. Some landlords have already reportedly filed for evictions in violation of the law, even before the protection ended. Some states have extended eviction protections for some renters, though coverage may be uneven.

If you live in a property covered by the CARES Act, landlords can now legally ask you to leave and start charging late fees, but the soonest they can legally file an eviction to force you to leave is Aug. 24. As long as Congress passes an extension or renewal of the eviction ban before Aug. 24, tenants who are behind on rent should continue to be temporarily able to remain in their homes.

The CARES Act eviction safeguard is thought to have helped as many as 23 million US families (roughly one-third of all US renters) stay in their homes during the coronavirus recession. As of July 31, every benefit provided by the CARES Act has now ended, including the eviction moratorium. 

That means tenants who can't pay rent can be legally made to leave their rental properties. Congress has stalled on another stimulus bill that might renew some protections and will likely include a second stimulus check, but there's new hope that talks may resume this week.

Regardless, rent was due Aug. 1. and will be again Sept. 1, with no federal unemployment enhancement or rent protections in place. 

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It's still unclear how much cash Congress plans to put in American's pockets with a second stimulus bill, only that another round of direct payments is likely to be included.

Angela Lang/CNET

Does the Aug. 24 eviction stay apply to you?

The CARES Act protected only about one-third of rental properties in the US, specifically those that received federal funds or were financed under a federal program like Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. It isn't clear if Congress will broaden the scope of properties covered under law. 

Here's where things get tricky: If your landlord owns your building outright or financed the property without going through the handful of federal programs that guarantee most mortgages and doesn't get any government assistance like Section 8 money, the CARES Act didn't apply to your situation.

For tenants of single-family homes or of apartments in buildings with four or fewer units, it's going to be tough to find out whether this or a similar law applies to you. But if you live in a multifamily property with five or more units, there's a tool published by the National Low Income Housing Coalition that's designed to tell you if the property where you live was covered under the CARES Act. Try entering your ZIP code and scrolling through the list of properties looking for yours. (Searching within the page didn't work for us.)

There's one more wrinkle, however. Just because your building isn't listed doesn't necessarily mean it wasn't covered -- the tool only tracks properties with five or more units and it might not even cover all of those. So if you rent a single-family house or an apartment in a building with four or fewer units, it may not be listed even if the property fell under the CARES Act. 

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Find out the status of eviction protection in your state

Statewide eviction bans have mostly either already expired or will soon, many with no replacement in sight. Michigan, for example, let its eviction moratorium lapse, as have several other states. A handful of states never canceled evictions to begin with.

To help you find out the status of eviction protection in your state, legal services site Nolo.com maintains an updated list of state eviction provisions

If you're seriously delinquent or know you will be soon, you may want to consult a lawyer to better understand how laws in your area apply to your situation. Legal Aid provides attorneys free of charge to qualified clients who need help with civil matters such as evictions -- you can locate the nearest Legal Aid office using this search tool

Online tools that point you toward resources

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DoNotPay offers a variety of legal services, including financial relief relating to the coronavirus pandemic.

Screenshot by Dale Smith/CNET

Nonprofit website 211.org connects those in need of help with essential community services in their area. It's recently set up a portal for pandemic assistance. If you're having trouble with your food budget or paying your housing bills, you can use 211.org's online search tool or dial 211 on your phone to talk to someone who can try to help. 

Another nonprofit, JustShelter.org, puts tenants facing eviction in touch with local organizations that can help them remain in their homes or, in worst-case scenarios, find emergency housing.

The online legal services chatbot at DoNotPay recently added a coronavirus financial relief tool that the company says will identify which of the laws, ordinances and measures covering rent and evictions apply to you based on your location. 

DoNotPay is a service that will draft and send a letter to your landlord on your behalf, asking for either deferred payments or to waive late fees. Here's how to set up an account and use the DoNotPay chatbot.

How to ask your landlord for a reduction or extension

In almost all instances it's probably best to work out an arrangement with your landlord or leasing agency, if at all possible. Although some landlords have reportedly reacted to the pandemic by putting even more pressure on tenants to pay upother landlords have risen to the occasion, some going so far as to stop collecting rent payments for a period of time.

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If you don't have enough money to cover rent, first see what protections are available in your area, then consider trying to work out a payment arrangement with your landlord.

Sarah Tew/CNET

It may be worth approaching your landlord to see if you can pay less rent in the coming months, or spread payments for the next couple of months' rent out over the next year. As renters across the country organize rent strikes and more community leaders push for rent freezes, your landlord may prefer such an arrangement to not receiving any rent at all.

Just be wary of landlords who make excessive demands. For example, some have asked tenants to turn over their $1,200 stimulus check or any money received from charity as a condition for not filing an eviction order. Don't agree to unreasonable conditions or terms you won't be able to meet, especially if your city or state has enacted protections against such arrangements.

If you're concerned about your financial situation these days, consider these 28 ways to save money during the pandemic and get some free financial advice from these six organizations. And here are some money basics that might be able to help you through a tough time.