After being sworn in as president today, Joe Biden plans to extend a nationwide pause on evictions through the end of March.
The federal eviction moratorium, implemented through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is intended to help tenants who have been battered economically by the pandemic.
"Without this action by President Joe Biden, millions of renters could have lost their homes during this surge in COVID-19," says Diane Yentel, president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. But she adds that the moratorium itself is insufficient and allows some landlords to evict tenants despite the protections.
For example, she notes that no federal agency is enforcing the order's penalties for unlawful evictions.
NPR has reported on families getting evicted despite the CDC order, which in spirit directs landlords not to put people out in the street for non-payment of rent and into living situations where they can catch and spread the coronavirus.
Already one study has attributed thousands of deaths in the U.S. to evictions during the pandemic because displaced families have been forced into more crowded living conditions.
Housing advocates say the CDC order is not an automatic eviction ban. Many renters don't know how to take advantage of it. Tenants must sign a CDC declaration and provide it to landlords and, in some cases, to local housing courts.
The recent COVID relief bill passed by Congress provides billions of dollars to pay landlords for back-rent and future rent payments as millions of Americans remain unemployed and struggling to pay their bills. The hope is that, too, will prevent evictions since landlords only get compensated if tenants remain in place on the property.
Biden is also expected to extend deadlines for moratoriums aimed at protecting homeowners from foreclosure.