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Legal entities remind tenants of rights before eviction moratorium expiration

The COVID-issued eviction moratorium is poised to expire Saturday, July 31, which could ultimately uproot millions around the country from their rented homes.

Troup County and surrounding communities will be affected as well, said Lanona Jones, a board member and the secretary and treasurer with the Calumet Park Neighborhood Association Inc. 

“There have been conversations about how it’s affecting local communities but not so much as being behind on rent,” Jones said. “It’s more so about trying to find places to move to when [tenants] are in those circumstances. They may decide that their landlord may evict them but have nowhere to go.” 

The temporary eviction moratorium was put in place in March 2020 to prevent landlords from removing people from their homes for nonpayment of rent due to the economic repercussions during the COVID pandemic. The moratorium that was originally scheduled to expire on June 30 but that changed when CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky signed an extension.

“Now that it’s ending, landlords can move to evict tenants that are behind on their rent,” Jones explained. 

Jones, along with Chandra Wilson and Molly Sutter, both of whom are attorneys with the Georgia Legal Services Program in Columbus, held a Facebook Live “Your Rights as a Tenants” workshop on Wednesday, updating viewers on the moratorium, their options following its expiration and overall tenant/landlord laws. 

“As we discussed in the workshop, the best thing they can do is call Georgia Legal Services so that they can assist them with filing a placement application with the Georgia Department of Community Affairs for the rental assistance program,” Jones said. “If they qualify for the rental assistance program, DCA will pay for rent and utilities up to $15,000 per household.”  

On Thursday, the White House confirmed that President Joe Biden would allow the moratorium to expire but called on Congress to pass new protections due to the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant of COVID-19.

“That likely means that Georgia won’t extend the moratorium for evictions,” Jones said. 

LaGrange does not have a shelter for families or for homeless people, Jones said, adding that the area’s rentable housing is higher than what the average resident may make. Jones suggested contacting organizations like New Ventures, Community Actions for Improvement or area churches.

“There’s really no options for persons that are suddenly out of their homes,” Jones said. “If they don’t have family in the area they can try to get emergency assistance … but that only helps if there are funds available.” 

Georgia Legal Services can be reached at (833) 457-7529.

The workshop video is available for viewing on the Georgia Legal Services Program, Inc. Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/georgialegalservices/videos/?ref=page_internal