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Tenant groups become increasingly militant to prevent evictions

By Mike Wheatley | August 7, 2020

With moratoriums on evictions throughout the country starting to expire, tenant groups are stepping in to try and save people from losing their homes.

Tenant organizers in South Central Los Angeles last week quickly organized a protest after a local landlord removed one resident’s belongings following their eviction. The landlord had changed the locks on the tenant’s apartment a week after he missed a rental payment, The Real Deal reported. More than 30 tenant organizers arrived at the property to protest his eviction, and blocked a moving company from loading his possessions into a van. They also hired a contractor to remove the new lock with a power drill, before moving the renter’s belongings back into the home.

David Wholman, the landlord, told The Real Deal that he had been “overwhelmed” by the response, saying he’s never seen anything like this happen before. He added that the tenant can stay put for now.

These kinds of efforts to keep renters in their homes following eviction are strategic, said Trinidad Ruiz, a member of the Los Angeles Tenant Union. “If you don’t have possession of the home going into court, you lose, because you’re already evicted,” he told The Real Deal.

It’s said that 27 U.S. states still have moratoriums on evictions in place following the COVID-19 outbreak, but the rest of the country has lifted those rules. And in the states where moratoriums are still in place, some landlords are suing to try and get the bans removed.

A recent report from the Aspen Group said 23 million renters across the U.S. are currently at risk of being evicted from their homes.

President Donald Trump said on August 3 that he might consider executive action to impose a sweeping federal moratorium on evictions while a new stimulus package designed to provide pandemic relief progresses through Congress. The previous moratorium on evictions for federally backed mortgages expired on July 24, and several state moratoriums are also set to expire this month.

Instead of extending eviction moratoriums, the National Association of Realtors has asked policymakers to provide rental assistance for those experiencing pandemic hardships.

"If residents are unable to pay their rent, housing providers will also be unable to meet their mortgage obligations, fund their payrolls and pay their property taxes to state and local governments that have been hardest hit by the pandemic. That, in turn, is likely to catalyze a chain of events with potentially devastating financial and economic effects," The NAR said in a letter sent to congressional leaders on July 31.

While the wrangling goes on, tenant groups are stepping up their efforts to prevent people losing their homes. Several groups recently staged a protest at the New Orleans city courthouse, barricading themselves inside the premises. Due to this, the courthouse was unable to open and proceed with several planned eviction hearings on that day.

“The reason we’re seeing more militant direct action from tenants is because of weakened protections,” said Patrick Tyrell, a staff attorney at Mobilization for Justice, a nonprofit organization that provides free civil legal services. “What else can they do?”

Mike Wheatley is the senior editor at Realty Biz News. Got a real estate related news article you wish to share, contact Mike at [email protected].
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