As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, many are worrying about the ever-looming threat of eviction once federal and state eviction moratoria expire around the country. Because of this, many animal welfare organizations are wondering if they will have a sudden influx of pets as a result.
In a recent People are Animals Too, Darn it podcast episode entitled, “The Eviction Crisis: What it is and How to Prepare” host Melanie Sadek discussed the impending eviction with attorney Abby Volin, founder and president of Opening Doors PLLC, a team of animal accommodation experts who help residential & commercial property managers, tenants & residents, universities, employers, & healthcare providers, welcome animals through their front door. Sadek and Volin also discuss the steps that animal welfare organizations can take to prepare for the upcoming housing crisis.
Opening Doors helps animal welfare organizations develop tools that expand housing options for people with pets. Some key points made during the podcast include:
- Housing is the number one factor determining the health of a community, making housing insecurity a public health crisis.
- During the COVID moratoria, most states are waiving fees associated with not paying rent, but tenants will be responsible for paying back rent eventually.
- Eviction processes vary by state and municipality. Certain aspects are consistent:
- A landlord CANNOT evict their tenant – they can only start a proceeding.
- A JUDGE is the only one with the power to evict – the time period between the landlord’s notice (the “cure” time) and the start of an eviction proceeding varies state to state.
- The landlord must clarify how much time renters have to cure the problem before any kind of court proceeding will begin.
- “Self-help eviction” is prohibited in most states – where the landlord comes in and changes the locks or throws the tenants belongings out of the property.
- A judge usually must give additional notice during the proceedings for removal from the property (i.e. they typically cannot say “you had 30 days to rectify, you must be out by tomorrow”).
- After the proceedings, the eviction notice still has to be delivered to the tenant, who is given a specific period of time to vacate
- After the predetermined period of time, a Marshall will come carry out eviction. Marshalls are the only individuals who can remove a tenant’s belongings out of the rental property.
- Prior eviction puts a bad mark on a person’s record, making landlords wary of renting to that person in the future. After being evicted, it becomes more difficult to be accepted as a tenant in the future.
The best solution animal welfare organizations can provide is to help find a way to keep a person and their pet together.
- Encourage individuals to call neighbors, friends or coworkers to see if someone can take them in temporarily. The shelter can provide items such as a crate, food, etc.
Additional tips for animal welfare organizations which want to help the community during this crisis include:
- Develop tools to help community members understand their rights by making a chart that includes:
- Reasons a tenant can be evicted.
- How much notice is required between an eviction notice and the start of court proceedings.
- What’s the retaliation statute (when a landlord acts in response to a tenant standing up for their rights) in the community?
- How much does the state/municipality allow for a security deposit? This is the maximum that can be asked (pet deposit + security deposit can’t exceed this).
- Work with other human service providers in the community, such as meals-on-wheels or social work organizations, to better support pet owners.
- Get involved with the local tenant’s association and share with them available resources for tenants with pets that may be struggling.
- Partner with behaviorists and trainers to help keep animals out of the shelter and in their homes.
- Poll volunteers and fosters – is there a lawyer in this group that can help with gathering this info or an organization to partner with?
To listen to the podcast, click on this link: http://peopleareanimalstoo.com/2020/07/episode-31-the-eviction-crisis-whats-coming-and-how-to-prepare-with-abby-volin/
Opening Doors: www.pawsopeningdoors.com
More episodes of “People are Animals Too, Darnit!”: www.peopleareanimalstoo.com