For Magda Werkmeister, a member of KC Tenants, a group working to ensure safe and affordable housing, home is a place of stability.
“Especially during the pandemic when we’re told to stay home and social distance, a home is the most important thing in the world,” she said in a KC Tenants Q&A session about the national eviction moratorium last week.
Despite the pandemic, people are still facing evictions. In order to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a national eviction moratorium, indicating that mass evictions would likely increase the spread of the virus.
Realizing how confusing the new moratorium has been to tenants, KC Tenant organizers are canvassing Kansas City and have dropped off national eviction moratorium information to more than 300 doors. Keep an eye out for them in your neighborhood or call their hotline for more information or questions: (816) 533-5435.
In Wichita, Renters Together ICT have scheduled a Tenant’s Rights Clinic for Tues., Sept. 15, from 7 to 9 p.m. A link to join this online clinic can be found on their Facebook page. In case you can’t make that clinic or need additional information, here’s some of the basics on the CDC’s national eviction moratorium:
What is the national eviction moratorium?
The national eviction moratorium creates a ban on evictions from Sept. 4 to Dec. 31. The moratorium prevents landlords from filing an eviction for tenants who have not paid rent if that tenant provided the landlord with the completed declaration form from the CDC’s website, which can be found here: https://templatelab.com/declaration-form/
The tenant should send the completed form to their landlord or owner of the property via email or certified mail and keep a copy for their own records.
Who is eligible for an eviction moratorium?
To be eligible for eviction relief, the tenant must expect to have an income less than $99,000 in 2020, or received a stimulus check, or did not have to file a 2019 tax return.
You must be experiencing a “substantial” loss of household income, a layoff or “extraordinary” out-of-pocket medical expenses (which the order defines as any unreimbursed expense likely to exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income this year).
The tenant must also promise to make timely, partial rent payments as they are able to,
Indicate they are trying or have tried to obtain rental assistance,
Indicate they are likely to become homeless if evicted, and indicate that they have been unable to pay rent due to loss of income or medical bills.
Although tenants do not have to attach proof of eligibility to the declaration form, declaration when submitting to their landlord, in case a lawsuit is filed, KC Tenants leaders suggest to have that proof on hand.
You also do not have to have a lease to be protected under the order. Still fill out the form and send it to your landlord, or whoever you pay rent to.
I filed and sent a declaration, but my landlord filed a lawsuit
According to executive director and staff attorney at Heartland Center for Jobs and Freedom, Gina Chiala, a landlord may still file an eviction notice for another reason, or file a lawsuit to challenge the tenant’s declaration.
Either way, Chiala suggests the tenant seek legal advice or call the Heartland Center for Jobs and Freedom legal help hotline: (816) 278-1344. Also, keep proof of attempts of seeking out other resources for help with rent like call logs and notes. Have proof of income and proof that you have been unable to pay rent due to income loss or medical bills in case the landlord challenges the validity of your declaration in court.
In Kansas, help may be available to Kansas Legal Services. They can be reached online @www.kansaslegalservices.org or by telephone at 800- 723-6953.
Also, if unsuccessful at evicting the tenant for nonpayment of rent, the landlord may try to evict the tenant for another reason, so Chiala suggests making sure you’re in compliance with your lease as much as possible.
What if I have already been evicted?
Unfortunately, the national moratorium does not cover those who have already been forced from their home, but it does cover those whose landlord has already given them notice of eviction.
What happens to late fees or other charges?
The moratorium does not stop rent, late fees and interest from accumulating every month if it’s part of the lease. The moratorium does not cancel rent. KC Tenant leaders believe the moratorium is just half the solution and have been working to cancel rent since the moratorium began, as a way to stop rent, late fees and interest from piling up.
What if I am undocumented?
The moratorium does not discriminate against those who are undocumented and they may still qualify for protection.
My lease has a 30-day notice clause to move
Check your lease to make sure there is not a 30-day notice to move clause, which asks the tenant for possession of property. The moratorium does not prevent this from happening to tenants.
The most important takeaway is to make sure you have access to legal help if the landlord does challenge the declaration and files a lawsuit. Chiala suggests not navigating a lawsuit on your own and to seek out an attorney.
“You’re not alone in this and we’re here with you,” Chiala said.
For eviction resources or help with other housing issues, visit the KC Tenants website: https://kctenants.org/
Join RentersTogethe ICT online Tenant’s Rights Clinic, Tues., Sept. 15, 7-9 p.m.