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Landlords are encouraged to think creatively as 28 million Americans face eviction

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How evictions work in the U.S.
Key Points
  • Democrats in the Congress are looking to stop evictions and foreclosures during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Landlords are also looking for creative ways, like lease guarantees, to ease the burden on their renters. 

Sen. Kamala Harris joined the movement to address the housing crisis in America. The California Democrat introduced the Relief Act, which would ban evictions and foreclosures for a year for tenants and homeowners.

Those affected would have 18 months to make up missed rent payments.

This comes on the heels of a May survey by the American Apartment Owners Association that found nearly 60% of landlords said their tenants are unable to pay rent because of the coronavirus and 80% said they're willing to work with these renters.

"We made it pretty clear to our landlords that people aren't just suddenly going to be able to afford to pay back everything they owe on one day," said Alexandra Alvarado, the association's director of marketing and education. "So it doesn't make sense to create a plan that isn't realistic." 

She said landlords could use a lease guaranty to help shield against nonpayment of rent or damages.

"We call it a security deposit alternative," Alvarado said. "It allows people to not have to pay a full security deposit. And then, you know, the landlord is protected for thousands of dollars just in case something happens down the road. It is a small fee that the tenant has to pay to get it, but it is definitely less than what a security deposit would be."

While deferring rent payments is helpful for those impacted by the virus, it could have broader and longer-term effects.

"The rent itself has ripple effects for the entire community," says Emily Benfer, a visiting professor of law at Wake Forest University. "When the rent isn't paid, the mortgage isn't paid, property taxes go unpaid, employees are unpaid, conditions that needed repairs are delayed. And the entire community ends up suffering — from the school system to services that the community provides to residents."

The House of Representatives has passed the Emergency Housing Protections and Relief Act of 2020, which would appropriate $100 billion for direct rental assistance, something that was not expressly written into the $2.2 trillion CARES Act. A companion bill in the Senate is not expected to pass in the upper chamber, even though President Donald Trump says he supports larger payments to Americans than those approved by Democrats in next coronavirus relief bill.

As Congress debates the new coronavirus relief bill, it remains be seen what provisions will gain bipartisan support from legislators and the president.