The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) federal eviction moratorium was recently extended to June 30, 2021, sparing millions from eviction.
When the moratorium eventually expires, the anticipated eviction crisis is expected to hit home here in Palm Beach County, putting thousands of renters on the brink of homelessness. With an eviction on their record, many will find it extremely difficult to secure an apartment in the future.
Although there are emergency rental assistance programs available through Palm Beach County and local nonprofits, the need has far exceeded these programs’ capacity to respond, leaving many unable to access assistance before an eviction is filed.
That’s why Adopt-A-Family contacted Legal Aid Staff Attorney Denita Jones, who provided useful information for families facing eviction because of unpaid rent.
If this sounds like your situation, here’s some advice Jones had to offer:
1. Respond to Your Eviction Notice
If you receive an eviction summons or complaint, you have five (5) business days to respond. It is very important that you submit a written response, also known as an “Answer”, within those five days.
2. When You File a Response, Pay Toward What You Owe If You Can
If you are able, deposit your past due rent in the court registry.
3. What to Do If You Cannot Pay Back Rent
File a Motion to Determine Rent and attach a signed copy of the CDC declaration, which shows you are protected under the CDC order. It temporarily halts residential evictions for non-payment of rent. The document will also demonstrate that you are not able to pay back the full amount owed.
4. Every Individual on the Lease Agreement Must Sign a CDC Declaration
Each adult on the lease should sign and deliver separate CDC declarations. In circumstances where individuals in a household (i.e. married people) file a joint tax return, it may be appropriate for one member of the residence to provide an executed declaration on behalf of other adult residents.
The CDC declaration must then be provided to your landlord, owner of the residential property where you live, or another person who has a right to have you evicted or removed from your residence.
5. If Your Landlord has already Begun Eviction Proceedings, Submit a Copy of the Required Paperwork to the Court in addition to providing a copy to your landlord.
After everyone on the lease agreement has signed the CDC Declaration, it should be filed with the court, along with the Answer document and Motion to Determine Rent.
6. Keep an Open Line of Communication with Your Landlord
It’s important to communicate with your landlord and make back payments whenever possible. When the eviction moratorium expires, you will still will responsible for paying back the rent owed.
7. Reach Out to Legal Aid for Advice
Legal Aid of Palm Beach County’s goal is to offer assistance to as many people as possible, even if it’s just legal advice. Legal Aid can assist individuals in applying to halt an eviction and/or provide them referrals to useful resources. For more information, contact Legal Aid at 561-655-8944 or complete the online intake form.
8. Rental Assistance is Available for Palm Beach County Residents
Residents can apply for Palm Beach County’s Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) program here:: https://www.rentalassistancepbc.org/. Adopt-A-Family’s Housing Stabilization Program also offers emergency rental assistance. For more information, call (561) 253-1361 or visit https://www.aafpbc.org/housing-stabilization-program/.
9. Rental Assistance is Available for Undocumented, At-Risk Renters
Legal Aid of Palm Beach County has funds available for individuals whose legal status prevents them from obtaining rental assistance from Palm Beach County. For more information, contact Legal Aid at 561-655-8944.
10. You Are Not Alone
Help is available. There is legal advice and access to assistance. Organizations like Legal Aid of Palm Beach County and Adopt-A-Family are here to help.
Many thanks to Denita Jones of the Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County for providing this helpful information.