KC metro renters, advocates say eviction-ban extension not enough

Housing study
Posted at 4:31 PM, Dec 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-22 19:24:03-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- — A new COVID-19 stimulus package extends the national eviction ban for another month, which is a relief to renters and advocates – but only for a short time.

The extended eviction ban will give renters who are behind a little more time to figure out what to do, but when many Americans are months behind, renters in the Kansas City metro said this doesn't fix anything.

"Ever since it started with losing my grandma, it's just been a downhill from then," Tynisa Swinton said. "It's been a constant struggle."

Swinton and her children moved into their house in July after her grandmother died from COVID-19. She then lost her job at a hospital right after that due to COVID layoffs. Swinton was one month behind, and her landlord filed an eviction judgment on her, though she said they never told her about it.

"I was trying to get the CDC form in for the eviction ban, and they were denying it," Swinton said of her landlord. "They were saying they didn't have to take it because I didn't have it in before the eviction, but I didn't know about the eviction."

Swinton said she called an organization for help and they were set to pay $1,000 of her rent. However, Swinton said her landlord refused to take the payment because she wasn't a "guaranteed stay" since the eviction issue hadn't been settled in court yet.

That blew Swinton's mind, she said.

The national eviction ban requires tenants to submit a form to their landlord for protection.

After a drawn-out court process, the Heartland Center for Jobs and Freedom now represents Swinton, and she's still in her house.

"That moratorium protected some tenants to some degree,, but it wasn't nearly as strong as what we need," Gina Chiala, staff attorney for the Heartland Center, said.

Chiala said their case load still is overwhelming despite the ban, and expect another wave in the beginning of January.

"There are certain kinds of eviction that are still allowed to be filed," Chiala said. "Any eviction that has anything to do with an issue other than rent can be filed and can be processed. And evictions that do have to do with rent can also still be filed, and they are being filed."

Chiala is one of many advocates pushing for a more robust eviction ban that forgives rent and doesn't require tenants to obtain an attorney.

"It shouldn't be happening," Chiala said. "We know it's a serious contribution to the continuing spread of the virus."

She is referring to a new study that said nearly 434,000 COVID-19 cases and nearly 11,000 COVID-19 deaths can be attributed to evictions in 27 states that ended their eviction bans before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued theirs in September.

"If I wasn't representing myself and if I wouldn't have spoken up, I would have probably been in that category, already out the house," Swinton said.

Swinton is hopeful for an outcome that lets her pay off her rent and keep a roof over her family's head.

"Speak up, it might save you," Swinton said. "It did me."