What at-risk tenants can do as evictions pick up across the U.S.

This is how evictions work in the US

Ed Jones | AFP | Getty Images

With rents rising and most of the pandemic-era eviction bans having expired, the number of renters coming home and finding notices on their doors is increasing.

In the first week of January alone, Princeton University’s eviction lab counted more than 9,300 eviction requests across the nine states and 32 cities it monitors.

In New York City alone, nearly 4,400 families and renters have been evicted from their homes since January 2022, when a ban on evictions was lifted.

“We’ve seen an increase in eviction requests in the areas we track over the past few months, sometimes back to pre-pandemic averages and sometimes worse,” said Jacob Haas, research specialist at the Eviction Lab. “Eviction can be a traumatic, destructive experience for the families who deal with it.”

If you’re behind on your rent or at risk of eviction, housing experts recommend the following.

Familiarize yourself with tenant law

Although it’s a difficult time for renters with rents soaring, the pandemic has also introduced new protective measures. It’s worth doing your research and familiarizing yourself with any rights you may have, experts say.

In certain cities, for example, landlords are now limited in the amount of rent increases. If you are threatened with eviction because of an illegal increase, it is good to know: You may be able to assert this with the housing court or with your landlord.

More from Personal Finance:
Here’s the inflation breakdown for December 2022 – in one chart
IRS kicks off 2023 tax season stronger, says taxpayer advocate
Social Security checks include an 8.7% cost-of-living adjustment this month

In some locations, if you are evicted, you are entitled to a specified notice period, such as a minimum of 90 days in certain cases in Portland, Maine. During the school year, educators and families with school-age children recently received a new eviction notice in Oakland, California.

In some cities, including Seattle and Portland, Oregon, if your landlord has increased your rent above a certain amount, you might be eligible for some of your moving expenses.

Work with an attorney

If your landlord has moved to evict you, housing advocates recommend that you try to find a lawyer as soon as possible.

A study in New Orleans found that more than 65% of tenants were evicted without a lawyer, compared to just 15% of those who had a lawyer with them at their hearing.

Visit Lawhelp.org to find low-cost or free legal help for an eviction in your state.

In a growing number of cities and states, including Washington, Maryland and Connecticut, tenants facing eviction have the right to legal counsel. A longer list of these places can be found at civilrighttocounsel.org.

Consider your rental options

Most rental assistance programs that opened during the pandemic are now closed, but some are still accepting applications.

Visit the National Low Income Housing Coalition website for a state guide to relief options and their status.

It’s not a strategy recommended by experts, but some tenants use their credit cards to pay for their rent. Few landlords or property managers accept plastic, so you would need to find a third party like Plastiq or PayPal.

But this option should only be used in dire situations, said Ted Rossman, a senior industry analyst at CreditCards.com.

“The biggest potential problem is having a balance and paying interest on your rent,” Rossman said. “This can significantly add to an already significant effort.”

Instead, he recommends renters ask their landlord for an extension or payment plan. Other ways to get rent can be by borrowing from family and friends or from your retirement plan, Rossman said.

Clarification: In the first week of January, there were more than 9,300 eviction requests in the locations that the eviction lab tracks. An earlier version incorrectly stated this fact.