Do I Have to Pay My Rent or Mortgage During the Pandemic?

·11 min read
Jeenah Moon/Getty
Jeenah Moon/Getty

As March winds down, at least 250 million Americans have been told to stay home or “shelter in place” to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Problem is, many can’t help wondering if they can still afford a place to shelter in—if they ever could.

Long before the coronavirus pandemic, generous swaths of the United States faced an affordable housing crisis. With millions of Americans losing their jobs and millions more facing unemployment in the near future thanks to a concerted economic shutdown geared at reining in the disease, talk of rent strikes and freezes are in the air.

The Trump administration recently nodded to the problem by ordering a foreclosure moratorium on single-family home mortgages backed by the Federal Housing Administration or obtained through government-owned lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Fannie and Freddie have also offered forbearance for borrowers experiencing hardship. And the finance giants have dangled payment relief to indebted apartment building owners who grant respite to renters, a move the Federal Housing Finance Agency estimates could affect 43 percent of the market in multifamily leases.

Then there’s the $2 trillion stimulus bill that passed last week, which contains language forbidding evictions and late charges on any property receiving virtually any federal aid. It also permits those owing money to Fannie or Freddie to request up to six months of forbearance, though it leaves the onus on borrowers to do so.

If your home doesn’t fall under one of these categories or programs, and you’re wondering if you owe money to your landlord or lender, the answer is probably yes—at least for now. Still, some state and local governments have moved to stem evictions and foreclosures for everyone, and a few are even freezing rent and mortgage payments entirely.

Here’s a breakdown of COVID-19 rules on housing across every state and many large metropolitan areas. This story will be updated as events warrant.

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Alabama: No specific government measures to prevent evictions or foreclosures, but local Regions Bank is offering a mortgage payment reprieve and the state Supreme Court has cancelled in-person proceedings until April 16, which may stem new removal proceedings. Individual judges may conduct business via phone or video, however.

Alaska: Gov. Mike Dunleavy has forestalled evictions and foreclosures of any tenant or homeowner covered by the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation, while the state Supreme Court has halted eviction hearings until May 1 and barred enforcement of outstanding ejectment orders against quarantined people.

Arizona: Gov. Doug Ducey has ordered a 120-day stay on eviction orders against anybody quarantined or experiencing hardship because of COVID-19, starting March 24, and has launched a $5 million rental assistance fund. The state’s “Save Our Home AZ Program” is offering principal reduction assistance, monthly mortgage subsidy assistance, and second lien elimination assistance.

Arkansas: No special COVID-19 programs in place as of this writing.

California: Gov. Gavin Newsom has ordered a statewide ban on evictions through the end of May, so long as tenants provide notice in writing within one week of their rent coming due that they cannot pay due to the disease. He has also cut a deal with Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, U.S. Bank, Wells Fargo, and 200 smaller lending institutions to defer mortgage payments for up to 90 days from borrowers who can show they've lost income during the crisis. Bank of America has assented to a 30-day grace period for mortgage payments. The City of Glendale has banned rent increases through at least April 30 (though not rent payments). Philanthropists in San Diego have established a COVID-19 Community Response Fund to provide rent, mortgage, and utility assistance to struggling locals.

Colorado: Gov. Jared Polis has issued non-binding guidance to state-chartered banks discouraging foreclosures, and Denver has reassigned deputies away from eviction enforcement.

Connecticut: James W. Abrams, Chief Judge for Civil Matters, has issued a stay of all evictions and ejectments through May 1, and postponed all foreclosure sales until June 6.

Delaware: The Justice of the Peace Court has postponed all eviction proceedings until after May 1, while Gov. John Carney has put off all residential mortgage foreclosures until 31 days after he lifts his order of emergency. Late fees or excess interest are forbidden.

Florida: No state programs in place as of this writing, but the Orange County Sheriff's Office has put off eviction enforcement "until further notice," as have police in Miami-Dade. The latter county has also called off evictions in its public housing.

Georgia: No state programs in place as of this writing. But on March 17, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms issued an executive order imposing an eviction moratorium on the Atlanta Housing Authority, Atlanta Beltline Inc., the Fulton County/City of Atlanta Land Bank Authority, Invest Atlanta, Partners for Home, and the city Department of Grants and Community Development.

Hawaii: The Hawaii Department of Public Safety Sheriff Division has indefinitely suspended evictions.

Idaho: No state programs in place as of this writing, but Boise public housing has waived rent and ended removals, and a judge has called off eviction hearings in Blaine County.

Illinois: Gov. J.B. Pritzker has barred evictions through April 7 by executive order. Courts have ordered longer cessations of evictions, including in Cook County (April 15) and in Peoria, Tazewell, Marshall, Putnam, and Stark Counties (April 17). A court covering Kendall and DeKalb Counties has barred new eviction and foreclosure proceedings for 30 days beginning March 18. Chicago is providing 2,000 residents with $1,000 grants to help cover rent and mortgage payments.

Indiana: Gov. Eric Holcomb has decreed an end to evictions or foreclosures until the end of his declared state of emergency.

Iowa: Gov. Kim Reynolds has halted foreclosures and evictions for the duration of a declared state of emergency, except in cases involving squatters.

Kansas: Gov. Laura Kelly has stayed evictions and foreclosures until May 1.

Kentucky: Gov. Andy Beshear signed an executive order March 25 suspending all evictions for the term of a declared emergency, while the Kentucky Supreme Court suspended all evictions until April 10.

Louisiana: Gov. John Bel Edwards has halted evictions and foreclosures.

Maine: Maine courts are closed for eviction proceedings through May 1.

Maryland: Gov. Larry Hogan has forbidden the eviction of any tenant who can demonstrate loss of income related to the crisis.

Massachusetts: Trial courts are closed through April 21 under order of the State Supreme Judicial Court, preventing evictions from advancing. Gov. Charlie Baker has announced $5 million in rental assistance, while the mayor of Boston has called off evictions by the city housing authority.

Michigan: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has banned evictions until April 17, and the state Department of Health and Human Services is offering up to $2,000 in emergency assistance to prevent foreclosures.

Minnesota: Gov. Tim Walz has suspended evictions and foreclosures during a declared state of emergency.

Mississippi: No programs in place as of this writing.

Missouri: No state programs in place as of this writing, but evictions are suspended in Jackson County until at least April 18, in Boone and Callaway Counties until April 17, and indefinitely in St. Louis County.

Montana: No programs in place as of this writing.

Nebraska: Gov. Ed Ricketts’ executive order has postponed all eviction proceedings for anybody impacted by the virus until May 31. The Omaha Housing Authority has called off evictions, while the Metro Omaha Property Owners Association—a landlord group—has requested its members reduce rents by 10 percent in the month of April.

Nevada: Gov. Steve Sisolak has blocked all eviction notices, executions, and tenant lockouts via emergency order for the entire length of the pandemic. State Treasurer Zach Conine has announced that lenders have agreed to a 90-day grace period for borrowers, although each mortgagee must reach an individual payment arrangement with their bank.

New Hampshire: Gov. Chris Sununu has barred evictions and foreclosures via executive order during the emergency.

New Jersey: Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order March 19 placing a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures for at least 60 days. On March 28, he instated a 90-day grace period for late mortgage payments, forbidding banks from charging hard-up borrowers late fees or making negative reports on them to credit agencies.

New Mexico: The State Supreme Court has indefinitely suspended evictions of tenants who can furnish evidence the crisis has left them unable to pay rent. Albuquerque has suspended evictions for public housing tenants, while Santa Fe has halted removal of those who can prove hardship.

New York: Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence K. Marks has suspended all evictions until further notice, while Gov. Andrew Cuomo has ordered banks to waive mortgage payments in hardship cases for 90 days. There is no state policy in place on rent payments, despite the governor’s claim that he “took care” of the issue.

North Carolina: State Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley on March 13 ordered courts to postpone eviction and foreclosure cases for at least 30 days.

North Dakota: The State Supreme Court has placed a hold on all eviction proceedings "until further order.”

Ohio: Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor has requested, but not obligated, that lower courts stay eviction and foreclosure proceedings. Huntington, PNC, Fifth Third, Citizens, Third Federal, Chase, and Key Banks are all offering mortgage assistance to struggling borrowers.

Oklahoma: No state policy in place as of this writing, but Tulsa County has halted evictions and foreclosures until April 15, while the Oklahoma County Sheriff's Office has suspended enforcement of housing ejectments until “appropriate.”

Oregon: Gov. Kate Brown has suspended eviction for nonpayment of rent for 90 days beginning March 22.

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Pennsylvania: The state Supreme Court decreed March 18 that neither evictions nor foreclosures could go forward for at least two weeks.

Puerto Rico: U.S. District Judge Gustavo A. Gelpí has suspended all eviction orders and foreclosure proceedings until May 30. The island's Public Housing Administration announced it will not collect rent from tenants until the expiration of Gov. Wanda Vasquez's order of social isolation—an order she recently extended to April 12. Residents of the government-owned developments will be liable for the payments after the governor's decree lifts, although they may apply for reductions based on loss of income.

Rhode Island: Gov. Gina Raimondo ordered courts not to process evictions for 30 days starting March 19.

South Carolina: Chief Justice Don Beatty has ordered a halt to all evictions until May 1.

South Dakota: No state policies in place as of this writing, but Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken has established a fund to provide financial assistance to those facing eviction.

Tennessee: The Tennessee Supreme Court has ordered judges not to proceed with eviction cases until April 30, unless "exceptional circumstances" prevail.

Texas: The Texas Supreme Court halted all evictions until April 19, subject to an extension by the chief justice. A Dallas County judge has put a stop to new removal cases and landlord recoveries until May 17. The city of Austin passed an ordinance March 26 granting renters a 60-day grace period and preventing landlords from initiating evictions. Nonetheless, renters who can pay rent are encouraged to do so.

Utah: No state policies in place as of this writing, but the Utah Apartment Association—a trade group— has generated a proposed “rent deferral agreement” for impacted tenants.

Vermont: The Vermont Supreme Court has suspended non-emergency hearings such as evictions until April 15, but individual courts may hold such proceedings remotely. Burlington-based affordable housing operators Champlain Housing Trust, Burlington Housing Authority, and Cathedral Square have all committed to suspending evictions.

Virginia: The Virginia Supreme Court has suspended non-essential, non-emergency proceedings such as evictions and foreclosures until April 6.

Washington State: Gov. Jay Inslee inked a 30-day eviction moratorium on March 18. Seattle has imposed a 60-day moratorium on evictions beginning March 3, with no late fees, and the King County Sheriff has suspended evictions "until further notice.”

Washington, D.C.: The D.C. Superior Court has suspended evictions and foreclosures.

West Virginia: The State Supreme Court has suspended all non-emergency proceedings, including housing-related matters, until April 10, and left open the possibility of extension.

Wisconsin: Gov. Tony Evers ordered the suspension of evictions and foreclosures until May 26. Judges in Dane and Milwaukee counties have forbidden sheriffs from executing outstanding eviction orders, and the Milwaukee Housing Authority has said it will not evict anybody during the crisis.

Wyoming: State Supreme Court Justice Michael K. Davis has ordered all in-person proceedings suspended, and recommended civil trials be rescheduled, which could serve to delay evictions or foreclosures. But local judges have some discretion on whether to conduct trials via video or teleconference.

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