A study published by Social Service Review, “A Little Bit of a Security Blanket”: Renter Experiences with COVID-19-Era Eviction Moratoriums, explores personal experiences with COVID-19-era eviction moratoriums through interviews with 60 tenants in Connecticut, Florida, and Ohio. The study finds that differing approaches to implementation, uneven information availability, administrative burdens, and discrimination led to varied tenant experiences. While some tenants reported that the moratoriums brought relief, others noted ongoing doubts that they would be protected from eviction and stress about mounting rental arrears. The authors suggest that tenant experiences could have been improved through better coordination with other programs (such as disability programs and rental assistance), the easing of administrative burdens, and greater outreach to tenants.
Tenants experienced uncertainty about the scope or applicability of the moratoriums’ protections. Some respondents described “loopholes” to the moratoriums that would allow landlords to evict tenants. For example, the federal moratorium ordered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) only disallowed eviction for nonpayment of rent but allowed eviction for other reasons. In Florida, gaps in state moratorium protections allowed the eviction of renters who could not prove their economic hardship was related to COVID-19. Some respondents reported that landlord pressure and “fake” eviction notices led them to move out even when they were protected by moratoriums.
In some states, administrative burdens created barriers for tenants interested in accessing eviction protections. The demands of implementing the moratorium may have contributed to inequalities and undermined its effectiveness. Florida placed responsibility upon tenants to use the moratorium as an affirmative defense against eviction but did not require that landlords or courts notify tenants about moratorium protections. Connecticut stood out for its broad protections that minimized administrative burdens by requiring landlords filing for eviction to include proof that they informed tenants of their rights and provided rental assistance resources.
Experiences with racism and power dynamics impacted some tenants’ trust in moratorium protections. Some respondents reported that previous experience seeking help led them to believe the moratoriums might be applied in a discriminatory way. Other respondents wondered if their inability to qualify for assistance was related to their race. One respondent said that, although she knew her landlord could not evict her, she moved out after falling two months behind on her rent because the landlord had power that she did not want to fight.
The eviction moratoriums appeared to have mixed impacts on the mental and physical health of tenants. Some tenants reported reduced psychological distress about evictions and rent arrears, while others reported feeling a sense of anxiety over falling into a false sense of security about their housing. Many tenants reported continuing to prioritize rent payments over other needs, including healthcare. One tenant even reported that the stress of mounting rental arrears caused him to lose sleep and exacerbated existing health conditions.
Despite challenges, many tenants still benefited from pandemic-era eviction moratoriums because they slowed the eviction process and allowed them the opportunity to catch up on their rent. Tenants’ ability to stay current and catch up on rent was often dependent on being able to access rental assistance resources. To optimize the impact of future moratoriums, the authors recommend that agencies expedite access to complementary resources such as emergency housing subsidies, income replacements, and disability benefits. The authors also advocate for reducing administrative barriers and improving public education about rights and resources for tenants.
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