‘The most lopsided economic event imaginable’: Wave of evictions threatens Black, Latino tenants

Evictions could put more at risk for contracting COVID-19 by forcing people to move into cramped quarters — or out on the street.

News Story (NATIONAL, New York)

Katy O’Donnell
December 15, 2020

Tags: CDC Eviction Moratorium, COVID-19, Housing, Housing: Eviction, Racial Justice

Organizations mentioned/involved: Legal Aid Society (New York City)


A state law protects some tenants who are behind on rent due to the pandemic from being removed from their homes, but landlords can still seek what’s called a “money judgment” — which would involve taking a tenant to court for the amount of back rent owed. Still, legal advocates say much of the enforcement is left up to the discretion of individual judges, leaving many tenants vulnerable to displacement.

“Anyone without an attorney is left out of this. … Anyone who has a complicated story to explain how Covid has affected them is having difficulty,” such as people who are undocumented, said Ellen Davidson, a tenant attorney at the Legal Aid Society, a legal services group. And if a tenant does win protection from a physical eviction, a money judgment could still plunge them thousands of dollars in debt.

In the meantime, rental debt continues to grow — tenants around the country could collectively owe as much as $24.4 billion in back rent by January, according to the latest estimates from the financial consulting firm Stout Risius Ross.