CLEVELAND, Ohio — Time is running out for the more than 3 million Americans who have relied on a federal moratorium on evictions to stay in their homes through the pandemic.
The CDC eviction moratorium runs out Saturday — after a last-ditch effort by House Democrats to extend it until Oct. 18 failed.
Landlords and fair housing advocates closely watched the 11th hour attempt Friday, including Caroline Walton, who owns five properties in Cleveland and East Cleveland.
She said dealing with the tenants in one of her Cleveland properties over the last few months has been a nightmare.
“They’re tenants from hell, they’re tenants from hell,” said Walton. “The girl upstairs, she throws her baby’s diapers in the front yard, side yard, wherever, barbecue grill sitting all in the front of the house, nasty, filthy.”
On top of that, Walton said they haven’t been paying rent because of the CDC’s eviction moratorium.
“What am I supposed to do when they say they're not supposed to pay the rent? How am I supposed to pay my bills? What am I supposed to do?” said Walton.
Walton believes they’re abusing the system, taking advantage of the moratorium, and putting her in a tough position. It's one she said many other landlords are facing.
“The government thinks that they're doing people a favor by saying, ‘Oh you don't have to pay rent,’ but they put that off on individuals like me. Why me? I'm not wealthy,” said Walton
Walton’s looking forward to the moratorium ending Saturday so she can start the eviction process.
But Patricia Dugan, an attorney with Community Legal Aid, believes most tenants aren’t taking advantage of the moratorium and millions of them are now facing a desperate situation.
“We do understand what this is doing to some of the landlords. I've been in court where I've heard the landlord say, ‘This is it, I'm done, I'm selling my house after this,’ which exasperates the shortage of housing,” said Dugan. “But to have massive amounts of people thrown out onto the street or into shelters of which there are shortages, it's just, well, it's not going to be good.”
She’s urging anyone in danger of being evicted to reach out to county rental assistance programs, make arrangements with their landlords, and lawyer up if possible.
“The majority of landlords who come into court have a lawyer. They understand the laws, they understand the nuances, and the tenant shows up and they don't and they don't understand how it works,” said Dugan.
For Walton, her problem isn’t with the people who really needed the moratorium’s protections, she just thinks it should have been implemented differently.
“People that needed the help, no complaints,” said Walton. “The government should have a program to pay these people's rent so that homeowners — we don't have to be affected.”
Community Legal Aid conducts free Zoom sessions every Tuesday at 4 p.m. where people can ask their lawyers about their rights as a tenant. More information can be found here.
The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland provides legal information and resources for tenants. More information can be found here.
More information about CHN Housing Partners’ rental assistance program can be found here.
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