COVID-19 and Evictions
Last updated on 08/27/2021 at 3:07 pm
Because of COVID-19 some people have lost income or work. Some are facing questions like: How can I pay my rent? Will I be evicted? What kind of help is out there for me?
Answers to these questions keep changing as government action changes. We will do our best to give you current information and update it when new information is available.
Are there any special protections for renters because of COVID-19?
No. As of August 26, 2021, there are no special protections for renters in West Virginia. If you are facing eviction, you can be evicted through the court system.
In the past, you may have seen in the news that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had issued an Order to temporarily stop eviction cases for nonpayment of rent if certain criteria were met. However, the U.S. Supreme Court ended the CDC Eviction Moratorium on Thursday, August 26, 2021.
If you are behind on rent due to COVID-19, you may be eligible for help with rent and utilities through the Mountaineer Rental Assistance Program (MRAP). More information is available online, along with the application. If you can’t apply online, call the MRAP Call Center at 1-866-623-6284 to ask for a paper application or if you have questions. You should apply for help with your rent as soon as possible. You will have to provide paperwork and the process may take some time.
I was laid off or lost income due to COVID-19. Now I can’t pay the rent. Is there financial help available?
Yes! You can apply for help through the Mountaineer Rental Assistance Program (MRAP). MRAP helps West Virginia renters who:
- Have lost income, suffered economic hardship, or qualify for unemployment related to COVID-19;
- Meet income requirements; and
- Have a household member who has experienced homelessness or housing instability since March 13, 2020.
If you are eligible, MRAP can pay for:
- past-due rent and utilities dating back to April 1, 2020;
- up to three future rental payments; and
- a one-time internet payment.
You should apply for help with your rent as soon as possible. You can apply even if you aren’t being evicted, but you are having problems making rent payments. And you can apply for help even if your landlord hasn’t filed court paperwork to evict you.
To apply for help from MRAP, you have to provide a good bit of information and paperwork. Plan ahead. It may take a few weeks to get approved if you are eligible.
If you are eligible, the funds will generally be paid directly to your landlord or utility company.
Also, make sure that you’ve gotten other assistance that may be available to you because of COVID-19, like:
- Economic Impact Payments (stimulus checks) from the IRS.
- If you have children, and did not automatically get the advance payment for the Child Tax Credit, go to the IRS website to give them the information they need so you can claim the credit.
- The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources has several programs available to assist West Virginians that have low-income, reduced income, lost medical insurance (or face high medical costs) or are unable to pay rent/utilities.
- Last, many churches and community organizations have funds to help tenants pay rent and utilities. You may be able to get help from them. Contact WV 211 for ideas of places to start contacting in your area.
Waiting For This Financial Help, What Should I Tell My Landlord?
Contact your landlord and tell her what’s going on. This is a standard advice we at Legal Aid always give to tenants in a financial pinch: talk to your landlord and explain what your plans are. Landlords are much more likely to cooperate with tenants who are talking to them, than tenants who hiding from them.
This is especially true now during COVID-19. Everyone knows what’s going on. If you’ve been a good tenant in the past, most landlords are likely to understand and work with you.
You should also make sure that your landlord knows you’ve applied for help. For the MRAP assistance, your landlord will likely need to provide some information to receive the funds.
Should I make partial payments?
Making partial payments (or entering into a payment plan) is often a show of good faith to your landlord. If you and your landlord can work something out, it’s always a good idea to put it in writing and have both sides sign it. Be clear about details like how much is going to be paid; how it’s going to be paid (cash, check money order; in person, by mail, or something else); and when it’s going to be paid. Both landlord and tenant should have a copy after it’s signed. Keep it in a safe place. This will eliminate confusion or argument later about what exactly was agreed.
Can my landlord force me out without going to court? Can he shut off my utilities or change my locks?
No. A landlord cannot breach the peace to forcibly evict a tenant without a court order. A landlord can’t lock out a tenant, disrupt utilities or refuse to make repairs to force out a tenant without going through the Court Eviction Process.
If I can come up with the money I owe, can my landlord still evict me in court?
If your landlord is only evicting you because you are behind on rent, and you can come up with the money to cover (1) the full amount of back rent, (2) all late fees or interest outlined in the lease, and (3) all court costs, then you can “Pay and Dismiss”. This means that if you have the money to pay for all of these amounts, your landlord gets what he’s entitled to receive. The eviction case gets dismissed. You get to stay. Read more about Pay and Dismiss in Eviction Cases.
Can I be evicted for getting sick?
No. Your landlord is not supposed to ask about illnesses or other disabilities. Your landlord can’t treat you differently than anyone else due to an illness. This includes asking whether you have COVID-19, or any other illness of disability. Please note, however, that getting sick is not a defense to eviction.
My landlord sent an e-mail requiring everyone to tell the office if they coughed, ran a fever, or had any other symptoms of COVID-19. Can my landlord do that?
No. A landlord should not ask about a person’s disabilities. You are not required to discuss this information with your landlord. You should, however, abide by all reasonable safety precautions a landlord puts in place related to management and maintenance of your rental property.
Can my landlord call the police and make me leave?
No. Law enforcement cannot force you to leave unless the landlord already has a court order to evict. If your landlord does call the police, tell the officer that you are a tenant and that you have not been evicted through any court order.
Does my landlord need to go to Court even if I haven’t paid rent?
Yes. The WV Attorney General has said that you have a Due Process right to have your case heard by a court to consider your circumstances and defenses before your landlord can evict you from your rental premises.
These ‘Due Process’ protections are in place even if there isn’t a ‘formal’ landlord-tenant relationship. These protections extend to persons that have lived in a place for an extended period (even if there was no commitment to pay rent or any other agreement). Usually such arrangements can be terminated quickly, but not before the person in control of the property seeks a court ordered eviction.
How long will it be before my eviction case is heard?
This will depend upon your local court. It could be as short as a few days or as long as a few weeks.
Some counties may be having hearings remotely– by phone or video. Other counties are holding hearings in person. There may be special rules about entering the courthouse or courtroom (face coverings, amount of people, etc.). If you have any questions about how your hearing will be held or when it will be, call the Magistrate Clerk’s office in your county and ask about scheduling. Learn more about Going to Court on Your Own During COVID-19.