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(StatePoint) Millions of Americans who have faced income loss and illness as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic are struggling to meet basic expenses, including rent. Recent statistics show that more than 15 million people nationwide live in households that are behind on their rental payments. As federal rental protection ends, these individuals and families are at risk of eviction, according to the Aspen Institute.
“The economic fallout from the pandemic is causing housing instability for far too many renters, including people of color disproportionately affected by this crisis,” says Eileen Fitzgerald, head of housing affordability philanthropy with Wells Fargo.
Struggling to pay rent? Fitzgerald offers four actions to take:
1. Talk to your landlord. If you can’t pay rent on time, see if your landlord can work out a payment plan, accept a partial payment or push the due date back a few days.
2. Seek emergency assistance. Those unable to pay rent or utilities may be able to access rental assistance through the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program. To find assistance in your area, visit home.treasury.gov and search “rental assistance.”
3. Get legal help. If you’re worried about eviction, talk with a lawyer experienced in eviction processes in your state. Many organizations offer free or low-cost legal counsel to fight eviction. To find links to trusted legal assistance in your area, visit americanbar.org and search for “free legal help.”
4. Contact a housing counselor. Housing counselors don’t just work with homeowners. They can help renters in need of assistance, too. During the pandemic, housing counselors have helped renters access emergency rental assistance, understand options for rental relief and eviction protection, as well as have advised on debt management and other money matters. Find a housing counselor by visiting hud.gov/findacounselor.
Help for Renters
As part of its efforts to help people stay in their homes, Wells Fargo is supporting initiatives nationwide that mitigate evictions.
Earlier in 2021, Wells Fargo gave a $4 million grant to The National Foundation for Credit Counseling and the Housing Partnership Network to launch the Renter Advantage program. Renter Advantage enables credit counselors and nonprofit rental property owners to work directly with renters to preserve their housing status and stabilize their financial situation. Through the program, credit counselors provide renters in need of assistance with trusted guidance, including enrolling them in plans to address sustainable rent repayment, debt management and improving long-term financial health.
Legal representation can make all the difference. A Harvard study shows that two-thirds of tenants with legal representation are more likely to avoid an eviction judgment and remain in their home. Harvard researchers also found an estimated 90% of landlords have legal representation, while only 10% of tenants do, putting tenants at a significant disadvantage. This is why Wells Fargo has provided more than $8 million in grants to legal assistance organizations helping keep people housed.
People of color, particularly Black and Hispanic tenants, represent 80% of people at risk of eviction, according to the Aspen Institute. Wells Fargo grants are helping close the housing equity gap.
“As the pandemic continues to take its toll on Americans’ physical and economic health, connecting people at risk of eviction with resources and options is critical,” says Fitzgerald. “Having a safe, affordable place to call home helps lay the foundation for wellness, dignity, and economic opportunity.”