BALTIMORE — Housing advocates warn there could be a tsunami of evictions when the courts begin hearing cases in a few weeks.
A recent survey by the Maryland Multi-Housing Association found nearly twenty percent of residents did not pay a portion or all of their rent in June. And more than a third of tenants living in Class C properties, or multifamily properties that are usually more than 20 years old, were delinquent in their rent payments.
On Monday, the House Environment and Transportation Committee held a hearing on the effects of COVID-19 on housing.
While evictions are halted for the time being, the deadline is quickly approaching.
**To apply for the Baltimore City COVID-19 Temporary Rent Support Program, click here. Scroll down for more details. The application deadline is July 19. Funds are limited. Not everyone will receive rent support.
UPDATE from the Baltimore City Department of Housing & Community Development: "Roughly 4,000 households are in the application process, and we are extending the timeline to ensure that we are able to help even more households.” **
On July 25, the moratorium on evictions under the federal CARES Act expires, and so does the additional $600 per week in unemployment insurance benefits. In addition, the Maryland Court of Appeals Administrative Order suspending emergency foreclosures, evictions, and other ejectments will be lifted.
When Maryland courts reach Phase 3 of their re-opening plan on July 20, evictions can begin to take place over existing judgments and warrants that were pending prior to the shutdown.
On August 31, courts will begin Phase 4, and at this time, will start to hear cases for evictions on the grounds of failure to pay rent.
However, as long as there's a state of emergency in Maryland, tenants who have been financially impacted by the pandemic should be protected.
"The governor put out an executive order that provides protection for Maryland renters so that they could not be evicted when they suffer a substantial loss of income related to the crisis," said Hunter Nickels, director and housing policy officer with the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development.
But unlike a moratorium, tenants would need to prove to a judge they lost their job due to the pandemic, or provide other evidence that they've been impacted financially.
"The governor’s executive order around evictions is wholly untested at this point because the courts have been closed. We don’t know how it’s going to function in reality," said Karen Wabeke, senior attorney with the Homeless Persons Representation Project, Inc.
Advocates and elected officials expressed concerns over the amount being provided by the state in rental assistance. On Friday, Governor Larry Hogan announced $30 million in eviction prevention assistance.
"Thirty million dollars doesn’t cut it. We need serious money," said Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich.
"I hope there's more money that comes out because $30 million is not enough," added Delegate Brooke Lierman (D-Baltimore City).
To make the greatest impact, Public Justice Center said the state needs to commit $154 million, which would cover 50 percent of the immediate need.
Pickels said they're evaluating as they go.
"I think that Maryland renters who have been substantially impacted financially should feel comfortable and secure in their homes," Pickels said.
Meanwhile, Wabeke warns that without more funding or protections, the state is getting closer to the cliff’s edge.
"There is significant uncertainty, concern among tenants who just don’t know what’s going to happen and the suggestion that folks should feel comfortable at this point I think is really, really missing the mark here," Wabeke said.
Baltimore City is providing $13 million in rental assistance. Applications for the Temporary Rent Support program open on July 1 and closes on July 19. There are income eligibility requirements. You must have lost income because of COVID-19 and have been fully paid-up on your rent as of March 31. For more information, click here.
The COVID-19 Eviction Prevention Program in Baltimore County is closed and no longer accepting applications.
For more assistance, see the resources below.