Landlords are kicking out tenants despite moratoriums on evictions via tricks and intimidation

Cash-strapped renters nationwide say their landlords tried to skirt COVID-19 eviction moratoriums by changing locks, removing trash containers so waste piled up and – in one case – attempting to unbolt the front door right off an apartment.

They told state attorneys general that they were kicked out of their homes after landlords accused them of violating tenant rules, like smoking cigarettes inside their units or failing to take the hitches off of their mobile homes.

Like Heidi Stach, who lost her job due to the pandemic and fell behind on rent, they assumed they were protected. But Stach says her landlord found an end-run to Wisconsin’s eviction ban: Instead of starting a court process, he sent her a notice to vacate this summer because he was not renewing her lease.

That type of informal or “extrajudicial” eviction is a work-around to the patchwork of emergency state and federal rules created this year to prevent landlords from ejecting tenants into unstable or crowded living arrangements during the health emergency.

What once was a fringe concern has become a quiet scourge across the nation, said Eric Dunn, director of litigation at the National Housing Law Project, feeding housing instability concerns among the millions who have missed rent payments.

“Since the pandemic started, and courts froze their dockets or had moratoriums, we’ve seen a huge spike in tactics from landlords to get people out,” Dunn said, “including changing locks, cutting off utility service, refusing to make repairs, making threats, providing misinformation and any other creative way to accuse someone of a lease violation that fits an exception in the moratorium.”

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Source: USA Today