Landlords have both a legal and moral responsibility to accept Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) funds and to not pursue non-payment evictions according to a letter sent Monday to the National Apartment Association (NAA) and the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Equitable housing and tenants’ rights are a vital necessity for communities of color, women and people with disabilities across the nation, never more so than now as the delta variant causes COVID-19 infection rates to skyrocket. NAR and NAA members can support national fair housing efforts and avoid lawsuits by accepting and implementing Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) funds, explained in the letter sent by the Alliance for Housing Justice, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and Public Advocates Inc.
“Many tenants across the country face eviction by landlords who either refuse to accept ERA funds outright or who are too impatient for the deficiencies to be worked out of the application process,” said Thomas Silverstein, associate director of the Fair Housing and Community Development Project with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “The impact will fall most heavily on Black and Latinx communities, both because of the broader demographics of COVID-related housing insecurity and the likelihood of some landlords who will engage in intentionally discriminatory conduct.”
Now more than ever, particularly in light of the recent extension of the federal eviction moratorium from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), landlords must take the time to work with their tenants and local jurisdictions to put the significant amount of available and unspent ERA funds to their intended use and keep people safely housed.
The groups are also encouraging trade organizations to educate members about significant litigation risks, to better understand the implications of pursuing or threatening evictions when ERA funds are available, and to rely on their legal expertise as a resource to develop educational materials and resources.
About the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law – The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice for all, particularly in the areas of voting rights, criminal justice, fair housing and community development, economic justice, educational opportunities, and hate crimes. For more information, please visit https://lawyerscommittee.org.
About Public Advocates Inc. – Public Advocates Inc. is a nonprofit law firm and advocacy organization that challenges the systemic causes of poverty and racial discrimination by strengthening community voices in public policy and achieving tangible legal victories advancing education, housing, transportation equity, and climate justice.
About the Alliance for Housing Justice (AHJ) – The Alliance for Housing Justice is a coalition of organizations seeking to align ourselves as legal, advocacy, organizing and policy groups to advance housing justice.