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Growing fears of eviction for struggling families as end of the year approaches

More than five million Americans are facing eviction in January.
Published: Dec. 26, 2020 at 11:14 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - A federal moratorium on evictions imposed by the Centers for Disease Control expires next week.

The new federal stimulus package is expected to provide more assistance for the new year but the bill remains stalled and local officials say even when a deal is made and approved, it could still take months to get the help in our communities.

In May, Gov. Tony Evers launched a $25 million Wisconsin Rental Assistance Program but many are still behind on rent or facing circumstances not covered by the rental protections in place.

The Tenant Resource Center says this year, it has dispersed about $11 million in rental assistance in partnership with Dane County.

Executive Director, Robin Sereno says the bulk of that money went out in just a 12 week period after the pandemic hit. Sereno say this is a first in the organization’s 40 year history.

New data shows about 12 million renters across the U.S. are more than $5,000 behind in rent. The Tenant Resource Center says locally about 15,000 household are experiencing low income and and owe back rent. Sereno says many of these families are four to six months behind on rent and tens of millions in back rent is owed in Dane County alone.

Despite rental protections in place because of the pandemic, many people in need are slipping through the cracks.

For instance, if someone’s lease in near the end of it’s term and they’ve been struggling to pay rent, a property owner could choose not to renew a tenant’s lease. This would force the tenant out of their home.

Sereno says this is possible because it technically doesn’t violate the terms of any moratorium because the lease term expired on its own, the property owner is not require to renew it and allow the tenant to stay.

Many families are left helpless this way. Hope now lies in getting more more money into the hands of struggling families to be able to pay their rent.

“Without pretty swift rental assistance we’re going to continue to see folks experience homelessness in our communities,’ said Sereno.

It’s also important to note that many landlords are struggling right now too. Relying on the income from their tenants when many cannot make their rent payments leaves property owners in a difficult spot as well.

It’s important to know your rights and what options are available to you. Both tenants and landlords have rights and resources during this time.

Those struggling are encouraged to reach out to the Tenant Resource Center for help or with questions.

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