Fed's rent protection doesn't cover 75 percent of renters

For families living paycheck-to-paycheck, paying rent was already a struggle. But the CARES Act, which provides protection from eviction right now, is a lifesaver for some but not most renters.

According to legal aid experts, only about 25 percent of renters are actually protected.

The CARES Act is in place to help families during COVID-19 who have lost a job to keep a roof over their heads. This runs through the end of July.

Protected from eviction are families living in properties that are government-subsidized or who have a landlord with a federally backed mortgage. That leaves 75 percent of renters unprotected. I talked with a lawyer in this field who says prioritize spending – rent, food, and utilities.

“If you can prioritize those three things that is the first step. If you can’t make your rent then you are going to want to talk to your landlord. You’re going to want to be pro-active and approach them and find out if they can work with you. The worst thing that is going to happen is they’re going to say, No, I’m sorry rent is due, then you’re in no worse position than you were before you talked to your landlord,” Erin Willoughby of the Clayton Housing Legal Resource Center.

Not being able to cover rent with record unemployment is going to cut across all socio-economic groups. Middle-class families renting so they can live in a good school district are not getting any federal protection.

What are you going to do if you can’t pay your rent May 1? Ask your landlord for a break-even, if that means a partial payment. Get any agreements in writing: a copy for you and your landlord. That’s imperative. On that check or money order make it clear what rent you’re paying for. If it’s for May 1, make it clear.

While Georgia has a moratorium on serving eviction notices, landlords can still file them, but being served and scheduling hearings is delayed until May 13. What happens after that? We don’t know yet. 

In the meantime use the resources to guide you: Georgia Legal Aid and Rent Assistance.