Evicted: What Are Your Rights as a Renter?

Evicted: What Are Your Rights as a Renter? (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Last month, the Supreme Court struck down the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s federal eviction moratorium — leaving potentially millions of renters vulnerable.

Some local and state legislations have enacted their own eviction bans, so those struggling to pay rent in these regions aren't as affected by this decision. And that may be a reason why there hasn't been a major uptick in eviction notices in the month since the announcement. But still, the end of the federal moratorium has left some renters uneasy and unsure of the status of their housing situation.

I spoke with Areeb Khan, staff attorney at Communities Resist, to understand what renters under threat of being evicted should know about their rights.

What is the federal eviction moratorium?

The federal eviction moratorium was a response to the pandemic by the CDC. This ban extended the time for national rent relief and prevents evictions. Khan explained that the CDC was originally able to implement this moratorium because kicking people out of their homes during the pandemic would only worsen the public health crisis.

But as of August 26, the federal moratorium is no longer in effect. According to Khan, this means that the Supreme Court ruled that the CDC was acting outside of its powers by trying to extend the national eviction ban.

Although the CDC’s moratorium was shot down, lawmakers are moving to introduce a bill to reinstate it

What should you do if you are under threat of eviction?

Khan suggests first doing some research and seeing if there is any legislation enacted to prevent your eviction. If doing the research on your own is proving difficult, your second action should be to reach out to a local or state legal aid organization to get some more information on the local laws and start figuring out if you need legal representation. 

He explained that in New York City if you have any kind of eviction case against you, you have the right to an attorney. While not all states or cities offer public attorneys for housing cases, Khan advised seeking legal representation to assess your situation and flesh out all your options.

“There's always an opportunity for legal representation, so people don't have to feel alone in this fight,” he said. “Whether you're in an area that has universal access to a lawyer or not, there are countless offices that provide eviction, defense or affirmative housing litigation if you need to take your landlord to court.”

If you are served an eviction, what are your rights?

If you are served an eviction notice from your landlord, Khan again suggests first reaching out to a local legal aid or legal services office for representation. Usually, you can figure out how many months you are behind on rent payment and a lawyer can help try to delay your eviction.

Khan also stresses the importance of remembering that no matter what, you are protected from landlord intimidation. So you have time to weigh your housing options. 

“Your landlord cannot simply issue you an eviction notice, and come and evict the next day,” he said. “A lot of people think that's the case. It would still require a judge actually signing off. That can take a long time.”

What can you do to help push for better legislation?

When it comes to housing rights and advocacy, change can’t happen overnight. “It is possible to push legislatures in a certain way,” Khan said. “But it takes a lot of organizing, it takes a lot of action, and it takes a lot of communities and people coming together.”

Even if it it may take time to see the changes he's fighting for, Khan's goal right now is to do everything in his power to help the tenants he works with and keep driving the housing movement forward. 

“I could be doing this work for the next 10 years and I won't have solved all these tenants’ issues, or the city’s issues,” he said. “But hopefully I and other people will be able to have made an impact in terms of moving the momentum forward. Creating these paper cuts — protecting tenants or trying to enforce tenants’ rights in a new way. We're always fighting for those things.”

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