Memphis legal expert fears extension of CDC eviction ban could hurt Mid-Southerners

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Some fear the extension of the CDC’s eviction moratorium could cause potential confusion and new challenges for Memphians and Mid-Southerners who’ve fallen behind on their rent.

For the many tenants unable to make rent payments during the pandemic, the Biden Administration this week extended the nationwide ban on evictions for a month but said this is the last time it plans to do so.

Cindy Ettingoff, the chief executive officer and general counsel of Memphis Area Legal Services, says many people in Memphis and West Tennessee could be hurt by this decision.

“People who thought if I can just hold on, keep a roof over my head and that of their children long enough I can get a job, things will reopen, I’ll be reemployed. It’s going to all fit together. We’re going to be okay. Unfortunately, that’s not the case,” Ettingoff said.

She calls the decision a major setback.

“We are already seeing evictions. We’ve already had an uptick in evictions, truthfully. So, this moratorium, the extension of the moratorium did nothing for us, sadly,” Ettingoff said.

Ettingoff says the CDC decision could have a far-reaching impact on many tenants behind in their rent.

“There’s nothing to prevent any landlord on a tenant who is in arrears from going an issuing a 14-day notice and turning right on around at the end of those 14 days and proceeding,” Ettingoff said.

The Emergency Rental Assistance program helped many tenants, but those dollars could be stretched to the limit.

“For many people this is a very dire time because courts are open, and there’s nothing stopping the eviction process other than dollars, and we may not be able to get the dollars to them quickly enough, a reasonable settlement negotiated quickly enough,” Ettingoff said.

The key now is devising the right sort of exit plan to make the transition less painful.

“We turn to as many people as we can to help as many people as we can and that landlords exercise a little restraint,” Ettingoff said.

The CDC first issued the moratorium last September. It was extended once already in March, until June 30. But landlords have been pushing back, saying that they’ve taken a major financial loss over the past year, losing billions of dollars a month in rent.               

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