The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act prevented landlords from taking eviction actions against renters who were unable to pay rent on certain federally backed programs, including the Housing Choice Voucher program, operated by the Phelps County Public Housing Agency (PHA).
The CARES Act also prohibited charging fees, penalties and other charges to those tenants due to nonpayment. This moratorium on evictions ended July 24, said Donald Keeney, housing manager for the Phelps County PHA. Now that the moratorium is over, here is what tenants and landlords should know.
Tenants should be aware that after July 24 the PHA or landlord can give an eviction notice if they have not entered into a repayment agreement. Any eviction notice given after the moratorium has ended gives the tenant 30 days to vacate the property. Tenants can avoid eviction in a few ways, which include:
• Notify the PHA of any decrease in income or change in circumstances as soon as possible, and ask the PHA to recertify the tenant’s income;
• Pay the lump sum of back due rent as soon as possible;
• Ask the PHA or landlord if a repayment agreement for unpaid rent can be formed. A repayment agreement is a written and signed contract between the PHA or landlord and tenant establishing the amount of back rent due and how much the tenant can pay each month and for how many months until the rent is current; and
• Talk to the PHA about local resources to help with rent, utilities and other basic needs.
Communication between the tenant, the PHA and the landlord is key in avoiding an eviction due to the ever changing circumstances caused by COVID-19.
Keeney suggested, per recommendations from HUD, that landlords should reach out to tenants and find out why a tenant is behind on rent. Additionally, the landlord should notify the PHA if a tenant falls behind on rent as soon as possible. This allows for staff to reach out directly to participants and assist them in reporting income changes or identifying and applying for additional resources. If possible, landlords are encouraged to enter into repayment agreements so that families can continue to be housed and not be burdened by paying past due rent in a lump sum. HUD encourages landlords to avoid evicting tenants whenever possible.
For more information, visit www.meramecregion.org/mrpc-programs-and-services/phelps-county-pha/ or contact the PHA at 573-265-4200.
MRPC provides staffing to the Phelps County Public Housing Agency that provides rental assistance to over 750 low-income families in Crawford, Dent, Gasconade, Maries, Phelps (outside the city limits of Rolla) and Washington counties. The PHA also offers the Family Self-Sufficiency Program where clients develop a goal-oriented, five-year plan that moves them toward self-sufficiency and independence from government programs.
Formed in 1969, MRPC is a voluntary council of governments serving Crawford, Dent, Gasconade, Maries, Osage, Phelps, Pulaski and Washington counties and their respective cities. Gasconade County Presiding Commissioner Larry Miskel serves as chairman of the board. A professional staff of 34 offers technical assistance and services, such as grant preparation and administration, housing assistance, transportation planning, environmental planning, ordinance codification, business loans and other services to member communities.