GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The eviction moratorium put in place by the Centers for Disease Control ends on December 31st.
It prevents renters from being thrown out of their homes due to non-payment during the pandemic.
If lawmakers don’t pass another extension for renters, landlords can once again evict for non-payment. Meaning the courts could be overloaded with cases in just a few weeks.
“It is entirely possible that the courts will have influx of activity as we come out of the most restrictive parts of the pandemic,” said State Court Administrator Judge Tom Boyd.
He tells FOX 17 the courts are prepared. They can increase or decrease in-person and virtual proceedings as needed to deal with any evictions that may come through the system.
“There’s a lot of human loss and suffering that the courts can’t fix,” said Judge Boyd, “but it doesn’t mean we don’t feel it and have empathy and are trying everything we possibly can to provide the connections to the social safety net that are appropriate.”
Those safety nets like rental assistance are key.
Michigan blocked evictions for non-payment earlier this year. The CDC order is the only thing left protecting people, but it runs out on New Year’s Eve unless extended.
It allows qualified renters to sign a declaration and give it to their landlord if they can’t pay because of a loss of a job.
Tens of thousands of others are still waiting on their unemployment checks and are unable to cover their rent.
“We don’t know if it will be extended, or if it’s extended what that might look like,” said Karen Tjapkes, Director of Litigation for Legal Aid of Western Michigan.
The agency covers 17 counties helping low-income renters and seniors with a variety of issues, including evictions.
It just started an Eviction Diversion Program this year because of COVID.
“To help tenants get through these court cases,” said Tjapkes, “help to negotiate dismissals and payment plans with their landlords and work through these cases so we didn’t end up with everybody evicted when the state moratorium came off.”
Some in Kent County could get $3,500 hundred dollars in CARES Act funding. Less or more depending on your qualifications and whether there’s money left or a waiting list.
“There is a cap on some of the money there’s a limit to how much they can pay. So, then tenants would be responsible to either find other assistance or to come up with a payment plan,” she said.
The CDC moratorium is not a blanket protection.
Renters still owe their past due amount and landlords can evict for damaged property, illegal activity, or breach of lease.
Just not for non-payment at least until the new year.
“We’re sort of telling folks, ‘ok, this is what we know now. So this is the information we have to help you plan now. If something changes, we’ll change the plan’”.
The money set aside through the CARES Act to help renters has to be spent by the end of the month.