MEMPHIS, Tenn. — In one of his first official acts as president, Joe Biden extended the federal ban on evictions through March.
While 60 days might not seem like much, some experts believe critical aid could occur in that time.
“We know that the City of Memphis will get funding, and Shelby County will get funding,” said Cindy Ettingoff, CEO of Memphis Area Legal Services. “They did previously. We have every reason to believe they will again.”
That money could be the difference between families having a home or living without a roof over their heads. Thousands of Mid-South families are behind on rent due to loss of jobs during the pandemic.
“We know that 68% of those people were not behind on their rent prior to COVID, prior to the job loss occasion,” Ettingoff said.
But months and months of tenants falling behind on their rent payments has affected landlords and renters too. Experts say the Memphis market has had an especially tough time.
“There really wasn’t any kind of clause for people that are residential owners, mom and pop landlords,” said Memphis attorney Jeffrey Lee. “Those tenants are receiving the same protections as the mega corporations that own thousands of properties.”
COVID-19 continues to cause financial issues, but with an increased vaccine rollout on the way, and no shortage of affected parties, experts say there’s been an uptick in tenants and landlords reaching settlements and moving forward together.
“The tenant, if present, is asked ‘do you agree with this amount?’ And if they say yes, that’s it!” Ettingoff said.
Surveys based on the U.S. census show Tennessee and Mississippi as two of the states with the highest number of tenants behind on their rent.