End Of The Moratorium: What It Means To Arizona Residents Who May Be Behind On Rent & Mortgage
Since March of 2020, there have been several forms of financial relief available to those who have lost income due to the coronavirus pandemic. One of these was the CDC eviction moratorium, which prevents landlords from evicting tenants due to nonpayment of rent. This was not only to prevent a massive increase in homelessness, but also to prevent the spread of COVID-19 that can occur without housing. It was also to prevent people from having to move in with relatives, as overcrowded living situations also mean increased risk of exposure to the virus. On August 3, 2021, the eviction moratorium was again extended for an additional 60 days after the previous moratorium had expired on August 1, 2021. People who were evicted in that two day period will not be protected by the new eviction moratorium.
An Eviction Moratorium Vs. Rent Forgiveness
An eviction moratorium and rent forgiveness are two entirely different things. If you have been taking advantage of the eviction moratorium, your rental balance will still be due when the moratorium expires on October 3, 2021. For some, this could be thousands of dollars that simply won’t be in their bank accounts when the moratorium expires. The extension buys these people more time to figure out what to do about their rental balances.
Make Sure You Have Completed Your CDC Declaration
In order to qualify for the protections from the eviction moratorium, you must prepare a CDC declaration to present to your landlord. You must meet three types of requirements for your declaration: income, financial hardship, and COVID-19 transmission. To meet the income requirement, you must have received a stimulus check, not have been required to file taxes in 2020, earn less than $99,000 ($198,000 for joint households), or receive government benefits like SNAP or SSI. To meet the financial hardship requirement, your income must have decreased, you lost your job, your hours have been reduced, or you have out-of-pocket medical expenses totaling 7.4% or more of your annual income. You must also live in an area with a high COVID-19 transmission rate- all of Arizona meets this qualification. You will sign and date the declaration and give it to your landlord either by hand, mail, email, or fax. If you have previously completed the declaration, it is still valid for the current eviction moratorium.
Review Your Lease & Abide By It
Even after submitting your valid CDC declaration, the eviction moratorium’s power to prevent evictions isn’t absolute. The moratorium only halts evictions for qualified individuals who have failed to pay rent. However, there are several other reasons you could be evicted from your home. You should review your lease and any other applicable guidelines to make sure you are following the rules of your community. Unlisted pets, loud parties, messy patios, and other small issues that the landlord might not have cared about in the past could now be a valid reason for a landlord to evict a tenant who is behind on rent.
Apply For Rental Assistance
The federal government has given Arizona hundreds of millions of dollars for rental assistance programs, but only a fraction of that has been distributed. You can use the additional 60 days from the eviction moratorium to apply for these assistance programs, which can resolve your past due balance and allow you to stay in your home when the moratorium expires. Many of these programs also provide assistance with utility payments.
Some Of The Rental Assistance Programs Available In Arizona Include:
Maricopa County: Maricopa County Emergency Rental Assistance
Yuma County: Yuma County Emergency Rental Assistance Program
Chandler: Chandler Community Action Program
Can Bankruptcy Help With An Unpaid Rental Balance?
You may have heard that when someone files bankruptcy, they are instantly protected from repossessions, wage garnishments, and more by the Automatic Stay. The Automatic Stay will also stop evictions, but only before a certain point in the process. If your landlord has not yet filed eviction paperwork against you, they will be prevented from doing so while the Automatic Stay is in place. Filing bankruptcy won’t stop an eviction when the landlord has already obtained a judgment for possession.
If you want to stay in your current home, you will need to resolve the balance by the time the Automatic Stay expires. In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, this will be 3 to 5 months. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy lasts 3 to 5 years. There are exceptions when a debtor has filed multiple bankruptcy petitions. Chapter 13 bankruptcy will also help you catch up on your rent by spreading the past-due amount over the lifespan of your payment plan.
So what if you don’t want to remain in your current home? Bankruptcy could be a preferable way to move out over eviction. This is especially true if you already have living arrangements planned for after you file bankruptcy. A bankruptcy filing will show up on credit checks for future rental applications, not that it will make renting impossible. You will also be disqualified from FHA loans for 2 years after filing, so buying your own home will be extremely difficult shortly after bankruptcy.
Unpaid rent, as well as any fees associated with breaking your lease, are unsecured debts. These are dischargeable with no payment in Chapter 7, along with the rest of your unsecured debts, like credit cards, medical bills, and personal loans. In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, unsecured debts are paid to the extent that the debtor’s disposable monthly income allows, so some Chapter 13 filers may pay little to none of their unsecured debts in their payment plans.
If you want to file bankruptcy to stop an eviction, it’s vital that your filing is timed correctly, and there are no errors in your documents that could cause lapses in the Automatic Stay’s protections. While some debtors can draft and file their own petition without an attorney’s help, the stakes are too high to make that advisable here. Almost all (more than 99%) of Chapter 13 bankruptcies filed without an attorney are dismissed.
Are You Behind On Rent In Arizona?
Are you one of the many Arizona residents who are behind on rent, unsure of what to do once the eviction moratorium expires? You owe it to yourself to explore all of your options, including bankruptcy. Our Arizona bankruptcy lawyers offer free consultations so that you can learn more about the process, confirm that you qualify, and check that all of your assets will be safe in your bankruptcy. We also offer discount rates with payment plans starting as low as $0 down. To learn more, call or use our online form to schedule your free consultation today.