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The Latest On The National Eviction Moratorium

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This week, the Trump administration announced a nationwide moratorium on evictions. The order was issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which said it was necessary because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Housing advocates had been bracing for a wave of evictions since the end of July, when extra unemployment payments that were part of the coronavirus relief package expired. But now under the new order, qualified tenants can avoid being evicted at least until the end of this year. To help us learn more about the moratorium and what tenants should know about it, we're joined by Jeniece Jones, executive director of Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Greater Cincinnati. Jeniece Jones, welcome. Thanks for joining us.

JENIECE JONES: Hi, Michel. Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: So can you just talk me through this moratorium? What does it do?

JONES: Well, essentially, what it does is it allows tenants to make a declaration under penalty of perjury that you've made the best efforts to obtain some government assistance for rent or housing, that, if you're a single person, you make under $99,000 in annual income or, if you're a couple filing jointly, it's $198,000. And you're certifying that you are unable to make your full rent due to substantial loss of income, you know, related to COVID or that you have out-of-pocket medical expenses and a couple of other things that it asked. And you're certifying, you know, each question as you go through the form. And then you're signing and dating at the end.

MARTIN: So even if this moratorium stays in place, can landlords still go through with evictions?

JONES: Well, yes, because this is only for nonpayment of rent. So, you know, if there's issues around property damage or, you know, holdover tenancy or other things not having anything to do with tenancy and payment of rent, then a landlord could still conceivably file an eviction and have that eviction move through the courts.

MARTIN: Do you have some advice to tenants who are behind on rent? What can you do?

JONES: So we say, you know, try to pay your rent or work out something where you're going to pay the rent because what this doesn't do is forgive the rent. So at the end of this, you're going to owe all that back rent. And then the landlord can, according to this declaration, ask for it all at once. And that's a nonstarter for a lot of families.

Secondly, explore and see if there's any type of rental assistance or rental aid in your community. This mentioned specific government aid, where some local jurisdictions have put out government aid through CARES Act dollars or other local support dollars for rent assistance. But I would tell folks whatever jurisdiction that they're in, you know, research their local United Ways, city-county government to see if there's a rent assistance option that's available to them.

MARTIN: So what I think I hear you saying, overall, Jeniece, is try not to be afraid. Like, don't hide. Like, try to face the situation 'cause you could imagine where if you're in a situation where you can't make rent, it's frightening. It's overwhelming. You're scared. Maybe you're embarrassed, even if it's through no fault of your own. Your hours have been cut. What I think I hear you saying is don't hide from the situation; handle it.

JONES: Well, yeah. I mean, we would definitely say communication works best. We totally understand that you have folks feeling overwhelmed and that they can't - you know, there's just a lot to manage right now. We say communication in our experience has been a way to resolve things more readily than ghosting the landlord or not communicating at all because, then, that raises the temperature on the entire situation. We say communicate. But then we also say be clear about your situation. Make sure deals and agreements and understandings are in some form of writing. If you can, seek out help from your local Legal Aid. But don't not deal with the fact that rent is due. And, you know, this has to be addressed.

MARTIN: That was Jeniece Jones, executive director of Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Greater Cincinnati. Jeniece Jones, thank you so much for speaking with us. This is very helpful.

JONES: Thanks, Michel.

(SOUNDBITE OF BLKTOP PROJECT'S "RAINED OUT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.