Will evictions spike when moratorium expires?
BARRE CITY, Vt. (WCAX) - COVID-19 is taking a financial toll on the unemployed who can’t pay their rent. That trickles down to landlords, who are telling our Calvin Cutler a new stimulus program won’t be enough to prevent evictions.
"This is really hurting landlords," Larry Lozier said.
Lozier rents out 10 units in Washington County. His tenants have been making payments but he's concerned some landlords are being taken advantage of because of the state's moratorium on evictions.
"If my job had shut down, I definitely would not have been able to pay my rent and I would have had to move back to my parents'. People want to stay where they are," said Leah Willett, a Barre renter.
But Lozier says the moratorium is making it worse for some landlords who can't remove tenants who trash apartments.
"There's very little money to keep that property afloat. You gotta start taking money out of your own pocket and some landlords just don't have it," Lozier said.
Add to that civil courts are closed, creating a massive backlog of eviction cases.
The state is rolling out $25 million in rental and mortgage assistance for landlords and tenants in hopes that these cases will be worked out ahead of time. Some 1,300 people-- mostly landlords-- have already applied.
“If we can end the eviction proceedings entirely by covering someone’s lost rent, that’s the ultimate goal,” said Josh Hanford, the commissioner of the Vermont Department of Housing and Community Development.
State leaders say this will help but acknowledge that landlords will still feel the squeeze. They also say states such as Wisconsin that have lifted moratoriums too soon saw a flood of cases.
“They had 61 eviction cases over several months’ period at the beginning of the COVID crisis. When they lifted the moratorium, they had 1,500 cases,” Hanford said.
But Lozier says when landlords can't pay their mortgages, houses become abandoned.
"It's bringing the values down of not just that property but all of people in that area when you have a property that's rundown. It's hurting everybody," Lozier said.
The eviction moratorium is in effect until the end of the state of emergency. For now, that’s set to happen in mid-August. And when it does, all the rent is due dating back to late March.
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