Eviction Moratorium FAQ: What Renters Should Know

Kurt Manwaring
Researcher & Writer
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Published on September 15, 2021
11 min read

At a glance

In August 2021, the Supreme Court overturned the Biden administration’s eviction ban—while one in every seven tenants was behind on their rent and in danger of eviction. It’s not easy to move in the middle of an affordable housing crisis, let alone move while COVID-19 rages on.

Eviction is scary, so it’s essential to understand the process and know where to find critical resources. We’ll explain the basics and options that may help, like emergency government funding and nonprofit support. We also have a list of helpful resources, such as low-cost movers and free do-it-yourself (DIY) guides.

What happens if you get evicted

Evictions and COVID-19

COVID-19 couldn’t have hit at a worse time. Surging housing prices combined with income lost due to the global pandemic have left more than 11 million Americans at risk of eviction.1 2 In a normal year, landlords submit nearly four million eviction filings.3 COVID-19 eviction moratoria prevented as many as 1.6 million evictions, but the courts may soon be flooded with residential eviction cases from tenants suffering financial hardship.3

Congress instituted a federal eviction moratorium (or eviction ban) in 2020, along with several extensions.4 The new eviction moratorium issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was supposed to last until October 2021.5 However, the Supreme Court declared that the CDC’s moratorium extension didn’t pass constitutional muster (or was deemed unconstitutional).

The Supreme Court further ruled that only Congress has the authority to extend the eviction moratorium.4 Unlike with earlier extensions, Congressional Democrats and Republicans have been unable to forge a new deal.

Now, about one in every seven tenants may face eviction proceedings.1 A looming mass eviction crisis may be on the horizon for those unable to find rental relief.


The eviction process

The eviction process varies from state to state. However, each state usually requires landlords to follow three general steps before evicting a tenant:

  1. Termination notice. Your landlord delivers a written eviction notice. This notification warns that your rental agreement terminates in anywhere from three to five days unless you pay your back rent.
  2. Eviction lawsuit. Your landlord serves you with a court summons. If you fail to show up for your eviction hearing on the appointed court date, the judge will issue a default judgment in favor of your landlord.
  3. Final eviction notice. The sheriff's department gives you written notification that it will escort you off the rental property if you haven’t left by a specific date.
Heads Up
Can a landlord just kick me out?

No, a landlord can’t just kick you out. A sheriff’s deputy will arrive to escort you off the rental property only if you lost your court hearing and failed to leave by the date on your written eviction order.


Rental assistance

You can often find rental assistance to stave off eviction. Options range from communicating with your landlord to applying for government rent relief. In some cases, you may also qualify for a free lawyer to help with your eviction case. Here are some of the most common ways to get help:

  • Talk to your mortgage company or landlord. Sometimes, eviction proceedings begin before you’ve had a chance to talk about options. Communicate with your lender or landlord and see if they may be willing to offer help, such as late fee forgiveness or a rent payment plan.
  • Seek out Treasury Emergency Rental Assistance programs. Congress authorized $25 billion to help renters in need of emergency rent assistance. However, about 75% of the financial assistance funds remain unclaimed. To see if your area has funds available, enter your state here and find application instructions.
  • Call 2-1-1. You may be able to find local government and nonprofit rental assistance by calling 211 or going to 211.org. These resources often include utility assistance and subsidized housing.
  • See if you qualify for legal aid. Low-income tenants often qualify for free legal support, including attorneys who can help with an eviction lawsuit. See if you’re eligible by searching for legal aid options near you.
Info Box
How do I fight a wrongful eviction?

The only way to fight a wrongful eviction is through the court system. Many low-income tenants qualify for a free attorney who can assist with legal disputes about residential evictions.


Affordable housing resources

After being evicted, people often turn to a few housing options: friends, extended-stay motels, and homeless shelters. None of them are ideal, but knowing where to look can keep you from sleeping in the streets. If your eviction isn’t final, we recommend trying to find rental assistance or affordable housing options. If you’ve already received an eviction judgment, you can start looking for short-term housing alternatives:

  1. Friends and family. Moving in with the folks is often a last-ditch effort, but getting evicted means you don’t have many options left. You can reach out to friends and family to see if you can crash at their place while you figure things out.
  2. Extended-stay motels. With rates that can exceed housing costs, pay-by-the-week motels aren’t cheap. However, they’ve become an effective solution for evicted tenants with low credit scores.6
  3. Homeless shelters. Although this is typically the least desirable option, we recommend contacting a shelter if you are unable to secure other short-term options. Many shelters have waiting lists that are often weeks and months long, so it’s important to call them as soon as possible. Enter your location here to find nearby homeless shelters, food pantries, and health clinics. We recommend contacting a homeless shelter as soon as you learn about a potential eviction (wait lists can often be pretty long).

Most affordable moving resources

Low-cost moving resources are one way to lower the costs and stress of moving. It’s stressful enough to move under normal circumstances. Trying to do it while not knowing where you’re going to live takes things to a whole new level. Thankfully, we’ve done the research to pinpoint the moving companies that are likely to charge you the least amount of money.

You can often save hundreds of dollars by using the most affordable moving companies. You can also multiply your savings by choosing DIY options like rental trucks that require more effort but cost much less. We’ve put together a list of the cheapest companies to help minimize your moving costs after being evicted. Prices range from storage unit rentals starting at $160 per month to moving containers that can cost more than $2,500.

Note: The prices listed below weave together several distances to create an overall average. Your move may cost substantially less if you’re going only across town. Even moves of less than a few hundred miles will usually result in lower costs than what you see in our list of the cheapest moving companies.

Move.org’s cheapest moving companies

Company
Moving type
Average cost
Learn more
CubeSmartStorage unit$160
U-HaulRental truck$990
U-PackMoving container$2,610

Data as of 10/14/2020 (CubeSmart),10/2020 (U-Haul), and 8/10/2020 (U-Pack). Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

We’ve also compiled a list of moving discounts to help you save money on storage units, truck rentals, and moving containers. CubeSmart has one of our favorite discounts. The storage unit company waives the first month’s rent for new customers. We also like Budget Truck Rental’s 20% off discount, worth more than $200 for the average rental. U-Pack rounds out the list with a $50 price break on moving containers.

Best moving discounts

Company
Moving type
Discount info
Learn more
Budget Truck RentalRental truck20% off online orders with code “20DIS”
CubeSmartStorage unit1st month free
U-PackMoving containerUp to $50 off

Data as of 9/8/2021. Discounts may vary by location and are subject to change.

Other resources

Home services are probably the last thing on your mind during a last-minute eviction, but there are resources that can help you stay safe and connected if and when you find a stable living situation. In addition to the moving resources provided above, we also have a list of the cheapest options for your internet, phone, TV, and home security needs.

Move.org’s cheapest internet, cell phone, TV, and home security companies

Company
Moving type
Average cost
Additional info
RCNInternet$19.99–$59.99/mo
Mint MobileCell phone$20/mo
PhiloTV streaming$25/mo
VariesVarious home security productsUnder $20/mo

Data as of 2/25/2021 (RCN), 9/8/2021 (Mint Mobile), 11/19/2018 (Spectrum), 11/19/2018 (DISH), and 8/19/2019 (various home security products). Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.


DIY guides

We've put together a list of DIY tips to help you best settle into your new home after a stressful eviction:

  • Find a Place to Live Even With an Eviction Haunting You. Having an eviction on your rental history can make it difficult to find another home. Increase your odds of getting approved for a new place by paying rent if you stay with friends or family. You can also improve your credit, get a job, and find a cosigner for your next lease.
  • Creative Ways to Slash Your Utility Bills. It doesn’t take much for utility bills to add hundreds of dollars to your monthly budget. These 23 tips give practical advice for how to lower your costs, such as lowering the temperature on your water heater, replacing your air filters, and using LED light bulbs.
  • Where to Find Free Moving Boxes. Free moving boxes can shave $100–200 off your moving costs. Check with neighbors, post notices on social media, and visit nearby stores to find free boxes.
  • How to Find Free Packing Supplies. Free packing supplies can lower your overall moving cost. As with moving boxes, you’re most likely to find free supplies by checking with family and friends, going online, and talking to nearby store owners.
  • How to Install a DIY Home Security System. Money’s probably too tight to pay a professional to install your home security system. Do it yourself by identifying the most critical areas to keep safe, setting up a doorbell camera, and more.
  • Where to Find Affordable Home Security. You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars to keep your home secure. For example, a Ring Alarm costs only $10.00 per month. There’s even a company that offers basic monthly security for $5.00.
  • How to Save Money on Groceries. This list of 28 tips can help you save $100 or more on groceries. For example, you can receive $150 for signing up for a rewards credit card. You can even get paid for taking pictures of your grocery receipts.
  • 10 Surprising Things You Can Return To Retailers. You’d be surprised how many things you can return to the store. Get some extra cash by taking back merchandise like worn workout clothes, assembled IKEA furniture, and even used makeup.

Recap

The nation’s eviction crisis has worsened as many renters are at risk of being kicked out of their homes and forced to move during COVID-19.

Here is a recap of options to consider to help alleviate some of the panic and cost of an eviction:

  • Know how the eviction process works. Landlords can’t just kick you out. They must follow your state’s laws and provide you with an initial termination notice. If you can’t work things out, the landlord will then serve you with a summons to appear in court. Finally, a sheriff’s deputy will serve you with a final eviction notice if you lose your hearing.
  • Seek out rental assistance. You can apply for emergency rent relief or go to 211.org for nonprofit resources like housing advocates and financial support for your utilities. In some cases, you may also qualify for a free attorney.
  • Consider affordable housing resources. Go-to housing options include family and friends, extended-stay motels, and homeless shelters. Just be aware that homeless shelters often have long waiting lists due to high demand.
  • Access affordable moving resources. We put together a list of the least expensive resources to help you move your belongings after being evicted. You can rent a storage unit for as little as $160/mo, while the cost to rent a moving truck can be upwards of $1,000 (depending on how far you’re moving).
  • Save money with DIY guides. Try some money-saving tips to free up cash for rent. Our DIY guides help you prepare for your next home, save money on groceries, and even track down no-cost moving supplies.

Help with being evicted FAQ

What is a writ of eviction?

A writ of eviction (sometimes called an eviction judgment or writ of possession) is a court order issued after a landlord wins a court hearing against a residential tenant. The writ of eviction will include a specific date by which tenants must vacate the property.

What is a writ of restitution?

A writ of restitution is a legal document that gives law enforcement permission to schedule an eviction. If you receive a writ of restitution, it means that a judge has issued an eviction judgment against you.

What is a supersedeas bond?

A supersedeas bond is a justice court or district court bond that allows you to stay in your home while awaiting the results of your eviction appeal. The bond represents your promise to pay the court’s judgment at the conclusion of your case, including the losing party’s court costs.

What is an unlawful detainer?

An unlawful detainer is another name for judicial eviction action that landlords take against tenants. The term means that a tenant is unlawfully living in the landlord’s property after receiving a legal notice to quit (or leave) the home.

Is there a federal eviction ban?

No, there isn’t a federal eviction ban. The Supreme Court overturned the Biden administration’s CDC moratorium in August 2021. Congressional Democrats and Republicans have so far been unable to reach an agreement on another moratorium.

Does the federal government have any COVID-19 eviction protections?

No, the federal government no longer has any COVID-19 eviction protections. Landlords may now evict residential tenants for late mortgage payments and nonpayment of rent because the CDC’s moratorium no longer applies. However, your state’s eviction moratorium status may be different. Consult your local elected officials for more information.

Why did the Supreme Court overturn the CDC eviction moratorium?

The Supreme Court overturned the CDC eviction moratorium because it said that only Congress has the authority to extend an eviction moratorium. The Court ruled that the CDC order exceeded the federal agency’s authority and wasn’t constitutional (or didn’t pass constitutional muster).4

When can renters be evicted?

Renters can be evicted whenever they violate the terms of their rental agreements. Common reasons for evictions include failure to pay, damage to the rental property, and illegal activity at the rental unit.

Can I be kicked out of my apartment?

Yes, your landlord can kick you out of your apartment. However, the landlord can’t simply throw a tenant’s belongings into the street. Instead, both parties must participate in a formal eviction process that typically involves a termination notice, court hearing, and final eviction notice.

Do I lose my security deposit if I get evicted?

Yes, you typically lose your security deposit if you get evicted. Terms and conditions may vary by the lease agreement. However, your landlord is generally entitled to deduct any outstanding costs (including unpaid rent) from your security deposit.

Where can I find free legal help for my eviction case?

You can find free legal help for your eviction case at a legal aid center near you. Tenants qualify for legal aid if they have an annual income at or below 125% of the federal poverty level

Can a landlord sell a tenant’s belongings?

Yes, a landlord can often sell a tenant’s belongings. However, this measure is allowable only if landlords comply with housing laws and you don’t take your valuables with you. These requirements include providing a termination notice, concluding court proceedings, and waiting until the date specified on the eviction notice delivered by the sheriff’s department.

When does an eviction hearing occur in small claims court?

An eviction occurs in small claims court when the disputed amount falls below a certain monetary threshold (often $10,000). Low-income tenants may qualify for a free lawyer to help with their eviction cases.


Recommended resources

People also asked . . .

Sources

1. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “COVID Hardship Watch: Tracking the COVID-19 Recession’s Effects on Food, Housing, and Employment Hardships,” August 9, 2021. Accessed September 6, 2021.

2. Emily Benfer, David Bloom Robinson, Stacy Butler, Lavar Edmonds, Sam Gilman, Katherine Lucas McKay, Lisa Owens, Neil Steinkamp, Diane Yentel, and Zach Neumann, “The COVID-19 Eviction Crisis: An Estimated 30–40 Million People in America Are at Risk,” August 7, 2020. Accessed September 6, 2021.

3. Joe Fish, Emily Lemmerman, Renee Louis, and Peter Hepburn, Eviction Lab. “Eviction Moratoria have Prevented Over a Million Eviction Filings in the U.S. during the COVID-19 Pandemic,” December 15, 2020. Accessed September 8, 2021.

4. “Alabama Association of Realtors, Et. Al. v. Department of Health and Human Services, Et. Al., 594 U.S. 1 (2021).” Accessed September 7, 2021.

5. The Eviction Lab, Princeton University. “Questions and Answers About Evictions as the CDC Moratorium Ends,” July 26, 2021. Accessed September 8, 2021.

6. Mya Frazier, New York Times, “When No Landlord Will Rent to You, Where Do You Go?” June 16, 2021. Accessed September 7, 2021.

Kurt Manwaring
Written by
Kurt Manwaring
Kurt Manwaring brings nearly a decade’s worth of research experience as a business consultant to the Move.org team. He specializes in taking complicated issues (like moving) and presenting them in a way that everyone can understand. His writing has been featured in hundreds of publications, including USA Today, Martha Stewart Living, Country Living, Good Housekeeping, Heavy, Slate, and Yahoo! Lifestyle. He brings a BS in sociology and an MPA (masters of public administration) to the Move team. He would love to hear about your moving experiences and questions at kurt@move.org.