The threat of eviction: What renters need to know

With bans on evictions expected to lift in many places and a backlog in housing courts nationwide, there is a chance for a surge in the number of tenants who are at risk of eviction if additional government support isn’t forthcoming.

The rules on eviction depend on where you live. A federal government ban on evictions for tenants in federally financed housing covered one quarter of renters. Some states have extended moratoriums on evictions, including Michigan and New York, while in other places no ban was ever put in effect.

Regardless of your location, here are some important tips if you receive an eviction notice:

Stay in your home

The most important thing to do is to not leave your home. Many tenants do not know that they can fight an eviction. An attorney in your state can help you understand the way your state’s eviction appeals process works.

Be aware of your rights as a tenant

Your rights depend on where you live. But no matter where you are, it is against the law for your landlord to evict you for not paying your rent before going through formal procedures in place in your state or city.

How much notice you must be given depends on where you live. You also have to be offered the chance to appear in court to fight the eviction.

Keep good notes about everything that happens, including when you receive the eviction notice. When the case is filed, you should receive a date to appear in court.

If you pay any amount of rent between that notice and the time of your court date, inform the judge at the hearing.

Some cities offer you the right to a free attorney in an eviction case. That option exists in New York City, for example. You can look online to see if you have this option where you live.

You can also contact an attorney in your area to get some help understanding local housing laws.

Find out if an eviction ban applies

Search the property where you live in the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac databases online to figure out if you live in a federally financed property, and then find out whether there is any sort of eviction ban still in place. There may also be a local eviction ban.

If your landlord is violating a ban, you can file a complaint with the state attorney general.

Prepare for your court appearance

Make sure you know how your state is handling hearings. Do you have to appear in person, or is the hearing taking place over Zoom?

When you have the opportunity to speak to the judge, be clear about why you haven’t been able to pay. If you have paid part of your rent, explain the amount and what your plans are to continue to pay in the future.

Bring any related documentation with you, including bank statements, any information about changes in your employment or salary, and your current lease.

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