By Chauna Brocht, LCSW-C
The federal government has extended the eviction moratorium until December 31, 2020 for people who have lost income due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Even though the moratorium is in place, there are still steps you need to take in order to avoid eviction now and in the future. The patchwork of local, state and federal laws can be confusing. Here is what you need to know.
Know the facts about eviction in Maryland.
A landlord can’t evict you without a court proceeding. The courts just reopened recently, so evictions that were in process before courts closed can now resume and new eviction proceedings can also begin.
Even though eviction cases were on hold, you still owed your rent. It just means there was a pause on evictions, which has now ended for some Marylanders.
There is now a federal moratorium on evictions until December 31, 2020 issued by the Centers for Disease Control. Despite the federal moratorium on evictions, your landlord can still take you to court for an eviction (although the eviction might be delayed until after December 31, 2020).
To be eligible for the moratorium, you need to sign a legal declaration, meet income requirements, continue to pay the rent you are able to pay, and apply for government rental assistance.
You can learn more about this order and find a copy of the declaration form here.
While the state of emergency remains in place in Maryland, if you can prove that your inability to pay your rent is due to COVID-19, you cannot be evicted. Governor Hogan’s order states, “if the tenant can demonstrate to the court, through documentation or other objectively verifiable means, that the tenant suffered a Substantial Loss of Income” due to COVID-19, the courts should not evict. The courts have not said what type of proof they need; therefore, it is best to have a lawyer help you make your case.
Get legal help.
If your landlord has said they want to evict you, the first step is to get legal help.
It is illegal for a landlord to try to evict you without a court order and without the presence of the Sheriff/Constable, or if they deny you essential services (water, electric, gas) in an attempt to get you out. In such cases, call 911 and ask for police assistance. If you are illegally evicted, seek legal assistance and consider filing a complaint in court against your landlord.
Below are some legal organizations you can contact for help: :
- Maryland Legal Aid – 1-866-635-2948
- Public Justice Center – 410-625-9409 (non-subsidized housing, primarily Baltimore City)
- Homeless Persons Representation Project – 410-364-4198 (vouchers and subsidized housing only; Monday – Thursday 9:00 am – 2:30 pm, Friday 9:00 am – 1:00 pm)
- Disability Rights Maryland – 410-727-6352 (housing issues related to disability)
- Civil Justice Network – 410-706-0174 (free or reduced fee legal assistance on housing issues statewide)
- St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center – 410-366-8550 ext. 209 or firstname.lastname@example.org (Staff are taking calls 9a-5p. If not answered directly, all calls will be returned within 24 hours.)
Negotiate a payment plan with your landlord.
Either with help from your lawyer or on your own, contact your landlord in writing as quickly as possible to explain your situation and to ask if they will accept reduced rent or are willing to work out a payment plan. Get any agreements in writing. Housing advocates say landlords are typically more willing to negotiate with tenants who reach out quickly, rather than those who wait and see.
Get financial help.
Call 211 or your local city/county council person to ask for a list of agencies that currently have eviction prevention funds. There are a number of eviction prevention programs that might be able to help you pay your rent:
- The Eviction Prevention Program (EPP) is funded through CARES Act funds. It is for specific months and you have to show that you can’t pay your rent due to COVID-19.
- Other Homeless Prevention Funds might become available for rent assistance to those whose hardship is not due to COVID-19.
- The Assisted Housing Relief Program is limited to rental units in multi-family projects financed by the Department of Housing and Community Development Administration using state funds or federal resources. A list of eligible properties, more information, and the application can be found HERE.
- Your local Department of Social Services may offer assistance.
- Your local clergy may have rental assistance funds available.
Keep up to date.
Here are a few trusted sources that are updated regularly:
Maryland Volunteers Lawyers Service: COVID-19 Consumer & Housing Legal Updates
This is a very stressful and uncertain time. While there are no guarantees, experts say taking active steps as quickly as possible can make the difference in helping you avert eviction.
Chauna Brocht, LCSW-C, is Senior Manager of Service Coordination.
JCS provides a broad range of services that meet the diverse, multi-dimensional needs of individuals and families throughout Central Maryland. We offer guidance and support when you are seeking solutions for emotional well-being, aging and caregiving, parenting, job seeking, employers and businesses, achieving financial stability, living with special needs, and preventing risky behaviors. To learn more, please visit our home page or call 410-466-9200.