A CLOSER LOOK: Deadline looms for rental eviction notices

A Closer Look

ARKANSAS (KNWA/KFTA) — An Arkansas Supreme Court order suspending certain residential evictions due to COVID-19 ends Saturday, July 25.

More than 30% of households in Arkansas rent, according to the 2010 census. The median gross rent from 2014-2018 was $729.

Since March 27, former University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law Professor Lynn Foster has been tracking evictions of residential tenants for non-payment of rent.

There have been nearly 680 court filings between March 27 and July 17, with nearly 200 filed in Pulaski County Circuit Court, according to Foster’s data. Here’s the breakdown:

  • March: 17
  • April: 117
  • May: 149
  • June 254
  • July: 139

In June, Foster wrote: More tenants who answered eviction filings during June referred to cuts in employment because of COVID-19 than during previous months.

Currently in Arkansas, tenants who face eviction and are not covered by the CARES Act must check with local community action agencies. Some provide rent assistance, and some do not. If the agency does provide rent assistance, to qualify, the income limit for (example) a family of three is either 30% of the area median income, or 125% of the federal poverty level. Arkansas has decided not to allow families with higher income levels to qualify for this type of aid, unlike almost all other states. The amount of aid for families who do qualify is quite small, unlikely to pay even one month of rent.
Information about rent assistance is not easily found on the Internet.

NAT’L. ESTIMATION OF HOUSEHOLDS EXPERIENCING RENTAL SHORTFALL/POTENTIALLY FACING EVICTION (Household Pulse Survey)

  • Est. rental households unable to pay rent/risk eviction: 16,917,000
  • Est. rent shortfall: $21,075,000,000
  • Est. rental households unable to pay rent/risk eviction as a % of total renter households: 41.55%
  • Est. potential total eviction filings over the next four months: 11,419,000
  • Possible two million eviction filings in August, another two million filings in September nationally, data suggests

ARKANSAS CONFIDENCE LEVEL TO PAY AUGUST RENT, INCOME-BASED, AS OF 7/15:

  • Income between $25,000 to $49,000, to pay August rent, is 33% on average, according to the survey.
  • Sixty-percent of income earners between $50,000 to $74,999 have “high confidence in ability to pay rent in August,” but 40% have “moderate to no, or slight, confidence.”
  • Incomes between $75,000 to $99,999 have an almost 54% confidence rate that rent will get paid in August, 10% is moderately sure and the rest have “no, or slight confidence” rent is getting paid in August.
  • Those with incomes of $100,000 and upward are at about 70% total confidence that rent will get paid.
  • Between July 1 to July 15 the confidence rate to pay rent in August dropped from 93% to 54% for income earners between $75,000-$99,999. Incomes of $100,000 and above went from 98% to 70% between July 1 to July 15.

ARKANSAS CONFIDENCE LEVEL TO PAY AUGUST RENT, BY ETHNICITY, AS OF 7/15:

Total confidence to pay rent by all ethnicities is 39%, 27% have moderate confidence, 33% no, or slight, confidence.

The CARES Act passed by Congress regarding an eviction moratorium, signed into law on March 27, only applies for federally subsidized loans/mortgages, and a good chunk of the rental market is covered.

The Arkansas Supreme Court put its order out so when landlords file evictions they have to assert whether the CARES Act applies to the case.

The Household Pulse Survey is an effort by the Census Bureau and federal statistical agencies to document trends in how individuals are experiencing changes due to the pandemic.

Arkansas State Capitol, Little Rock. Photo Ninette Sosa.

When the eviction protection court ruling ends on July 25, days later people will stop getting the extra $600 in federally enhanced unemployment benefits.

“I expect that evictions will go up in August because this is the last week of the CARES Act eviction moratorium as well as the last week people will get the $600 supplemental unemployment check unless the law changes soon,” said Center for Arkansas Legal Services Managing Attorney Kendall Lewellen.

Arkansas Renters United Organizer Neil Sealy said the eviction waiver has been effective. “A lot of landlords have been kept from evicting people,” he said. “But, a lot of landlords, at least in the Little Rock area, have tried to go around the mandate.”

Examples Sealy gave included tenants getting locked out of their apartments and the only way to get back in was through an intervention, landlords trying to collect excessive late fees, and management renting out apartments ahead of time and telling people they have to leave.

Sealy said, in his opinion, he would like to see Congress pause evictions nationwide through the end of the year and provide no less than $100 billion in rental assistance. And that small landlords also need assistance whereas large companies get tax breaks.

Sealy hopes people call state Senators Tom Cotton and John Boozeman to let them know rental evictions should say on hold.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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