The global pandemic caused by the coronavirus known as COVID-19 has affected the United States tremendously. In addition to a death toll in the U.S. that exceeds 120,000, the virus (as well as the measures taken to slow its spread) has caused the U.S. economy to enter the worst recession since the 1930s. As a result of the economic downturn attributed to COVID-19, many renters and homeowners are facing eviction or foreclosure because they’re unable to afford their rent or mortgage payments. The U.S. Congress passed the CARES act to alleviate some of the economic harms related to the pandemic. Some of the provisions of the Act, in addition to state laws passed by the Rhode Island legislature, can be used to prevent both landlords and tenants in Rhode Island from losing their homes or investments.
The first actions taken to affect landlords and tenants was a moratorium that was placed on evictions in April, which has since expired. While it was in effect, this moratorium prevented landlords from evicting their tenants for nonpayment of rent. However, it did not eliminate the burden to pay rent. Since the courts are now open and processing evictions, many tenants who couldn’t afford to pay one month’s rent before are now facing demands for multiple months worth of rent and may be evicted. Some tenants are still protected from eviction by a moratorium that remains in effect for public and assisted housing, as well as for tenants living in a home that is financed by a federally backed mortgage. A tenant who is protected by this moratorium and receives an eviction notice can legally challenge the eviction and remain in possession of the property, however, the past-due rents must still be paid after the moratorium expires.
Rhode Island has also established a rental assistance program for renters who have been affected by COVID-19 and are at immediate risk of homelessness. Renters who qualify may receive a grant of up to $5,000 to help them with past-due rent payments and other fees. However, restrictions apply, and the funds are limited. Information about this program is available at www.housinghelpRI.com.
Another state program that may help both landlords and tenants is the Rhode Island Landlord Challenge program. The program incentivizes landlords to rent out their properties to people who are experiencing homelessness or are housing insecure. The state is offering as much as $4,000 per unit to landlords who make their properties available to people experiencing homelessness.
Another option for landlords struggling to make mortgage payments is a mortgage forbearance, which allows the borrower to stop making payments and extend their loan term without penalty. Forbearances are given at the discretion of the lender and may be denied, however, with the economic effects of COVID-19 on everyone’s minds, lenders will likely approve more forbearance requests than they usually would. A landlord seeking a mortgage forbearance should contact their lender directly.
Contact a Rhode Island Property Law Attorney Today
If you or a loved one is struggling to make rent or mortgage payments, or facing another landlord-tenant related issue, the legal assistance of a skilled Rhode Island landlord-tenant attorney can help you avoid losing your property or home. The qualified Rhode Island landlord-tenant lawyers at Bilodeau Capalbo, LLC have years of experience handling landlord-tenant issues, and have worked through cases in the midst of economic downturn and housing crises before. Contact our offices at 401-300-4055 to schedule a consultation with a dedicated Rhode Island landlord-tenant attorney today.