COVID-19 ISO Insights

20-28 Million People Face Evictions Amid COVID-19 Crisis

July 27, 2020

By: Christopher Sirota, CPCU

A CNBC interview with an expert on evictions and one of the creators of the COVID-19 Housing Policy Scorecard with the Eviction Lab at Princeton University has yielded some interesting findings.

According to the article, the COVID-19 crisis is poised to cause more than double the number of evictions that occurred during the 2008 foreclosure crisis. It is reportedly now being projected that 20 to 28 million people may face eviction from July to September.

The article explains that getting evicted has repercussions on a person's life beyond losing a place to live. And, it could exacerbate the pandemic. For example, per the article:

Studies have demonstrated that eviction causes increased mortality and causes respiratory distress, which in the Covid-19 pandemic can put people in even greater peril. It results in depression, suicides and other poor health outcomes. And the primary response to Covid-19 has been to shelter in place. If there’s an increase in homelessness [one economist estimates homelessness could rise by more than 40% this year], that could spread the virus.

Some states have reportedly implemented moratoriums on evictions, but 28 states have not. And even in those where a moratorium is in place, some of these states have reportedly allowed the eviction process to proceed up to the execution; therefore many evictions will occur almost immediately after a moratorium is lifted.

A further complication is the requirement in some situations for a tenant to appear at the eviction hearing virtually due to the COVID-19 crisis. However, the tenant may no longer be able to afford a smartphone or Wi-Fi to attend, thus potentially raising the possibility of default judgement to the property owner.

The Eviction Lab provides a scorecard for each state that looks at the following factors to create scores:

  • "Initiation of eviction: whether a state bars landlords from serving tenants with notice to quit and filing an eviction action for nonpayment related to COVID-19 and other reasons.
  • Court process: whether a state suspends eviction hearings, stays writs, orders, or judgments of possession, tolls or extends court deadlines, and seals eviction case records.
  • Enforcement of eviction order: whether a state bars law enforcement from executing an eviction order, including cases of COVID-19-related hardship, nonpayment, or all non-emergency cases.
  • Short-term supports: whether a state extends eviction moratoriums and emergency protections past the state of emergency, provides a grace period to pay rent, bars landlords from reporting tenants to credit bureaus, and halts foreclosures. In addition, the scorecard tracks whether utilities are barred from disconnecting service or are required to reconnect service without a fee, though these measures are not included in states’ final scores because the state is not always the actor.
  • Tenancy preservation measures: whether a state bars late fees, extends tenants’ legal representation in housing court, provides for safe and decent housing (through rental assistance or some other measure to provide relief from rental debt), and bars rent raises during and after the pandemic."

Also, see here for a spreadsheet that "documents the court, gubernatorial, and legislative COVID-19 actions taken throughout the United States that affect eviction and foreclosure cases at the state level."