BALTIMORE (WMAR) — “This is a preventable public health crisis,” said Public Justice Center attorney Matt Hill.
With Gov. Larry Hogan's eviction protection order expiring Sunday, Hill said there are at least 4,500 Maryland families that could face eviction if a judgment is entered and they cannot pay to stay. Hill said with the surge in COVID-19 cases, this is dangerous.
“When people are evicted, roughly 25 percent of them become homeless. They have to double up with family and friends. They end up in congregate homeless shelters where the risk of passing COVID is much higher and so we know the past eviction orders have saved tens of thousands of lives,” said Hill.
However, there is another option that hill said can help most people who have been affected by a loss of income related to COVID.
The CDC has extended a nationwide moratorium through October for areas with substantial or high transmission levels, which is everywhere in Maryland except Carroll County right now.
To take advantage of it, eligible people have to fill out the CDC’s eviction protection declaration.
“You then have to be proactive and send that declaration to your landlord, show up in court, seek the emergency rental assistance and all these things take time,” said Hill.
Be sure to keep a copy for yourself. Even if you give your landlord the declaration, you will still owe all the rent. The landlord can still charge you for fees, penalties, or interest, if permitted.
Whether you qualify for the CDC moratorium or not, hill recommends looking into rental assistance funding because there is still plenty available to help both tenants and landlords.
“There’s more than enough funding in the state of Maryland right now to make landlords whole,” said Hill. “For instance, in Baltimore City, there’s $80 million that hasn’t been spent yet for Emergency Rental Assistance. That’s a huge sum of money and so we really urge Gov. Hogan to extend the eviction protections. Give jurisdictions throughout the state more time to allocate that money and avoid an eviction tsunami which would only exacerbate the public health crisis.”
Tenants and landlords looking to apply for rental assistance should visit rentrelief.maryland.gov or call 877-546-5595 to be connected to local programs.