What to Do if You Get Evicted

Aug. 31, 2021

Image: Getty Images | Article: Maryalene LaPonsie

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For the millions of Americans who have filed for unemployment in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, state and federal moratoriums on evictions meant they didn't have to worry about landing on the street.

The eviction moratorium instituted in September by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for people who can't pay rent due to the COVID-19 pandemic expired at the end of July. Shortly thereafter, the CDC imposed a new moratorium through Oct. 3, directed at communities with substantial or high levels of COVID-19 transmission to prevent further spread of the illness. On Aug. 26, the Supreme Court blocked the latest CDC moratorium, noting in an unsigned opinion that Congress must pass legislation for further federal-level protections to be in place.

Renters in need of assistance must now rely on local protections to avoid eviction, and take action now to apply for emergency rental assistance. Thus far, federally issued funds for rental assistance provided to the states have been slow to reach tenants and landlords. The state of rental housing is at risk.

"I don't think any landlord I've ever known wants to kick people out," says Steve Siebold, co-author of the book "How Money Works: Stop Being a Sucker." Still, landlords have their own bills to pay and need to move out non-paying tenants.

If you find yourself on the receiving end of an eviction notice, here's what to expect.

How Long Does an Eviction Take?
Eviction procedures vary from state to state and may even differ by county within a state. Pre-pandemic, an eviction in Phoenix could be completed in as little as three weeks, while those in California may have taken as long as six months, according to Nick Mertens, vice president of property management at Atlas Real Estate, a property management firm that oversees approximately 3,400 units in Colorado and Arizona.

While the timeline can vary, states generally follow the same basic steps. Tenants must first be provided an eviction notice. Then, a hearing is scheduled so a court order can be issued to require the tenant to vacate the premises. If the tenant does not leave voluntarily, a landlord typically must wait until a sheriff can accompany them to the property and enforce the eviction notice. Any landlord that locks a tenant out or tries to force tenants to vacate a rental home without going through the court system or waiting for the sheriff's department is acting illegally, and the authorities should be notified.

With court cases paused for months during state shutdowns last spring, the eviction process, in some places, could take significantly longer than normal once cases resume.

"The courts are going to be so backlogged because there are a tremendous amount (of cases), so you may not get evicted for five or six months," says Howard Dvorkin, personal finance expert, certified public accountant and chairman of Debt.com. Tenants may also find courts to be more sympathetic given the COVID-19 pandemic. "Judges, frankly, are not going to be that anxious to throw people on the street," Dvorkin says.

If you have received notice of an eviction hearing regardless of whether you meet the above criteria, you can still try to fight eviction. Contact local tenant rights organizations, inquire with a local legal aid or legal services office for representation and check your state and city government websites for information that may be able to help prevent eviction. This article will provide you with resources by state to help you get started.

Finding Housing After an Eviction
If you know you're going to be evicted, it can be beneficial to move before the formal process begins.

"It makes it really hard to rent again if you have an eviction on your record," Mertens says. If you're behind on payments and know you can't catch up, a better option may be to strike a deal with the landlord or property management firm. They may be willing to drop the eviction proceedings if you agree to move out voluntarily and leave the unit in good condition.

However, if a formal eviction does take place, the best way to find housing later is to be honest about your previous situation. Most landlords will discover the eviction when conducting a background check, so it's best to share that information before they find it themselves.

"Some landlords don't want to hear your problems," Dvorkin says. As a landlord himself, though, he says honesty can make a difference when considering a rental application. "I have found when people are upfront with me about past issues, I feel much better," he says.

Even if a landlord is willing to overlook a past eviction, expect to pay more for a down payment or security deposit than what would otherwise be required.

How to Get an Eviction Off Your Record
Depending on whether your landlord reports to the credit bureaus or a financial judgment is entered against you by the court, evidence of your eviction could end up in your credit report. This information should drop off automatically after seven years.

A formal eviction also creates a court record, and this cannot be easily erased or hidden. The only way to remove the eviction from your record would be to have it expunged. Typically, the landlord would need to agree to that, which would mean settling any past due amount. Depending on your state's rules, you may also be able to motion the court for an expungement if certain circumstances exist, such as if the property was in foreclosure or you moved out prior to the eviction being finalized.

There are lawyers who can help with these cases, but they may be expensive. "Who has money for a lawyer if you can't pay your rent?" Siebold asks. He recommends trying to work with your landlord directly to reach a resolution, preferably before you are evicted and not after.

"I think goodwill goes a long way when it comes to eviction," Siebold says. Offering collateral or partial payments are two ways to show a landlord that you're committed to meeting your obligations. Keep a record of your communication and get any agreement in writing.

It's better to avoid eviction in the first place than to try to remove it from your record later, Mertens says. What's more, it's in the landlord's best interest to avoid an eviction, which can be a long and costly process. "It's not good for the resident, and it's not good for the property management company," he explains. "No one wants (an eviction) to happen."

By talking to your landlord now and making payment plan arrangements before state and federal protections are lifted, you might not have to worry about what to do if you get evicted.

Local Eviction Help and Getting Rental Assistance
In the COVID-19 pandemic, federal and state governments have allocated funds to provide emergency rental assistance to those who need it. The CDC has directed renters to two separate pages on the U.S. Department of the Treasury's website for rental assistance resources:

- Coronavirus Relief Fund.

- Emergency Rental Assistance Program.

Here's where you can go to find more information about your state's current eviction policies as well as contact information for legal services:

Alabama tenants and landlords can apply for emergency rental assistance here. Legal Services Alabama provides eviction resources and updates related to eviction and the pandemic on its website.

Legal Services Alabama can be reached at 1-866-456-4995, and Emergency Rental Assistance Alabama can be reached at 1-833-620-2434.

The Alaska Housing Finance Corporation offers resources on evictions and the application for rental assistance on its website.

Anchorage residents, which make up nearly 40% of the state population, can call 211 to inquire about municipal rental and utilities assistance.

Information on Arizona's Emergency Rental Assistance Program for residents of most counties is available here. Different organizations also offer varying types of legal aid throughout the state, with more information here.

Residents can also apply for eviction prevent assistance by calling 211 statewide.

Arkansas residents can apply for rent relief through the state's Department of Human Services, with the application available online.

The free legal aid organizations for low-income residents in Arkansas are the Center for Arkansas Legal Services (501-376-3423) and Legal Aid of Arkansas (870-972-9224).

Applications for rent relief in California are available online here.

Residents can also get more information on evictions through LawHelpCA.org.

Colorado's Department of Local Affairs provides resources for residents needing help with potential eviction or foreclosure. More information can be found here.

Residents looking for rent assistance or rental advice can call 211 in Colorado, or visit 211Colorado.org.

Connecticut has established its UniteCT emergency rental assistance program, and residents can apply for help here.

By calling 211 (or visiting 211ct.org) in Connecticut, you can get access to community services, including rental assistance and legal services.

Information about the Delaware's COVID-19 rental assistance can be accessed here.

Delaware's Legal HelpLink can be contacted by calling 302-478-8850.

District of Columbia
The District of Columbia's Department of Human Services provides updated information about emergency rental assistance here.

D.C.'s Office of the Tenant Advocate can also be reached by phone at 202-719-6560.

Florida residents seeking rental assistance can apply online here.

The Florida Department of Children and Families also provides county-by-county resources for rental assistance here.

Georgia's Department of Community Affairs offers information on COVID-19 rental assistance here.

Residents can contact the Department of Community Affairs regarding rental assistance by calling 833-827-RENT.

The Hawaii Housing Finance & Development Corporation provides information on county-by-county rental assistance resources here.

By calling 211 in Hawaii, residents will be connected with Aloha United Way, a free hotline for anyone looking for information, referrals and help on just about anything, including rental assistance or legal aid.

Idaho residents can apply for rental assistance through the Idaho Housing and Finance Association website. Legal Aid Services Inc. provides updates and resources on issues related to COVID-19 here. The website also provides information for applying for legal representation through the organization.

Idaho residents can find COVID-19 updates through legal services here and apply for legal aid services over the phone by calling 208-746-7541.

The application deadline for Illinois Rental Payment Program assistance has passed, but applicants can get more information here. Illinois Legal Aid Online provides updated information about housing during the pandemic here.

Questions about the Illinois Rental Payment Program can be answered when you call 866-454-3571. Legal aid options in Illinois are made locally available by county. Illinois Legal Aid Online provides search help and contact information for the right legal services for you here.

Indiana rental assistance can be applied for online.

Indiana Legal Services Inc. allows residents to apply for free legal help by phone at 844-243-8570, by dialing 211 or online here.

The Iowa Finance Authority is providing assistance for renters and homeowners struggling to make housing payments, with information available here.

You can reach the Iowa Finance Authority by phone by calling 515-452-0400.

The Kansas Housing Resources Corporation allows renters to apply for assistance online.

You can apply for legal assistance through Kansas Legal Services online or by calling 800-723-6953.

Residents seeking rent relief can apply or check on application status by visiting the Healthy at Home Eviction Relief Fund website.

Kentucky Legal Aid can be reached by phone by calling 270-782-5740.

Louisiana's Emergency Rental Assistance Program offers details and applications online.

Louisiana residents can also apply over the phone by calling 877-459-6555.

MaineHousing, or the Maine State Housing Authority provides information and applications for rent relief here.

Maine's Lawyer Referral Service will connect you with an attorney at 800-860-1460, though this service is not free. Legal aid organizations that are more locally based and focus on specific issues are listed here.

The Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development provides information on applying for emergency rental assistance and other resources for renters here.

Residents can reach the Maryland Emergency Rental Assistance call center at 877-546-5595.

Housing help and rental assistance resources in Massachusetts are available here.

To find legal resources that meet your needs, you'll need to look at local options. Search here to find the right legal aid.

Michigan's COVID Emergency Rental Assitance can be applied for online.

Michigan Legal Services can be contacted at 313-964-4130.

Resources for eviction protection and housing assistance can be found here.

Renters in need of legal assistance can call the Minnesota nonprofit focused on tenant advocacy, HOME Line, at 612-728-5767.

Mississippi residents can inquire about help through the Rental Assistance for Mississippians Program online.

Mississippi residents can apply for legal aid through the Mississippi Center for Legal Services here. Residents also have the option to call the Mississippi Center for Legal Services at 800-498-1804.

Missouri residents can apply for rental assistance here.

Missouri Legal Services provides contact information for legal aid offices throughout the state here.

The Montana Emergency Rental Assistance Program website offers resources and an application for assistance.

The rental assistance program is a part of the Montana Department of Commerce, which can be reached by phone at 406-841-2840.

Nebraska residents can apply for emergency rental assistance here.

The Emergency Rental Assistance Program call center can be reached at 1-833-500-8810. Legal Aid of Nebraska's COVID-19 and disaster relief hotline is 844-268-5627.

Nevada's rental assistance is available by county, and can be accessed through the Nevada Housing Division's website.

Phone numbers and email addresses for Nevada Legal Services offices throughout the state can be found here.

New Hampshire
Residents can inquire about and apply for the New Hampshire Emergency Rental Assistance Program here.

Residents can call the Legal Advice and Referral Center to inquire about legal aid and resources at 800-639-5290.

New Jersey
Information on rental assistance is available here.

Residents needing legal help for a civil matter, including rent-related issues, can apply to Legal Services of New Jersey by calling 888-576-5529, or apply online here.

New Mexico
New Mexico residents who are in need of assistance, housing included, can apply online.

New Mexico residents can apply for legal help through New Mexico Legal Aid by calling 833-545-4357.

New York
New York residents can apply for emergency rental assistance here.

New York's Emergency Rental Assistance Program can also be reached by phone at 844-691-7368.

North Carolina
North Carolina's HOPE program offers assistance to tenants and landlords, with applications available online.

The NC HOPE program can be reached by phone at 1-888-927-5467. Legal Aid of North Carolina can be reached at 866-219-LANC.

North Dakota
Information on how to apply for rental assistance online is available here.

North Dakota residents can apply for legal help through Legal Services of North Dakota by calling 800-634-5263, or visiting the organization's website.

Information for emergency rental assistance and how to apply is available through hthe Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio website.

Ohio Legal Help offers resources and information about housing during the pandemic on its website. In additional to Ohio Legal Help's website, residents can get in touch with the closest legal aid office by calling 866-529-6446.

Oklahoma residents in need of rental assistance can apply here.

Oklahoma residents seeking legal aid can apply by calling 888-534-5243.

Oregon residents seeking emergency rental assistance can apply online – the website also notes Oregon's state eviction moratorium has ended.

Oregon Law Center, which provides legal services for low-income Oregonians, provides contact information for legal aid offices by location throughout the state here.

Pennsylvania residents can apply for county-by-county rental assistance here.

The Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network provides contact information for legal aid providers throughout the state here.

Rhode Island
Rhode Island renters and landlord can apply for assistance here.

Residents can reach the RentReliefRI call center at 855-608-8756.

South Carolina
South Carolina residents can get information on the state emergency rental assistance program here.

South Carolina residents needing legal help can apply for representation through South Carolina Legal Services at 888-346-5592.

South Dakota
South Dakota's SD Cares Housing Assistance Program can be applied for online.

South Dakota residents in need of legal help can find contact information for their local legal services office here.

Residents can apply for rental relief through the Tennessee Housing Development Authority website.

There are a handful of regionally located Tennessee Legal Aid Services offices throughout the state. Phone numbers for each location are located here.

The Texas Rent Relief website offers information, resources and online applications for rental assistance.

For information on rent relief by phone, call 833-989-7368.

Utah residents can apply for rent relief here.

Utah Legal Services can be reached by calling 800-662-4245.

Vermont tenants can apply for emergency rental assistance here.

Vermont's rental assistance call center can be reached at 833-488-3727.

Landlords and tenants in Virginia can learn about eligibility and apply for rental assistance here.

The VPLC's eviction legal helpline is 833-663-8428.

The Washington State Department of Commerce provides a list of websites for organizations that provide rental assistance, which can be accessed here.

Washington residents can call 211 for tenant resources regarding legal help, eviction protection or rental assistance in their area.

West Virginia
West Virginia's Mountaineer Rental Assistance Program allows tenants and landlords to apply online.

West Virginia residents seeking legal help can apply to Legal Aid of West Virginia by calling 866-255-4370.

Wisconsin residents can apply for rent or utility relief here.

Wisconsin residents seeking legal aid regarding housing issues in the pandemic can inquire with Legal Action of Wisconsin by calling 855-947-2529.

Wyoming residents can apply for rental assistance here.

Wyoming's statewide legal hotline provides information and can direct you to the right place for legal help: 877-432-9955.

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