For tenants behind on rent during the pandemic, being shielded from eviction for nonpayment requires strictly following rules in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s eviction moratorium that began September 4 and runs through the end of 2020.
Now the makers of website Hello Landlord, which helps tenants give notices to their landlords, have updated their free tool to meet the CDC requirements.
At HelloLandlord.org, tenants submit their information and answer a series of questions, including their landlord’s name and how much money they owe. The site automatically generates a customized letter to the landlord that outlines the tenant’s circumstances and includes a promise to pay the back rent. Tenants also get a declaration document that follows the moratorium order.
In the declaration, tenants must swear they:
- Earn no more than $99,000 annually (or $198,000 jointly).
- Can’t pay their rent because of loss of work or extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses;
- Have done their best to get available housing assistance;
- Would become homeless or have to move into a home with many people, potentially spreading the COVID-19 virus;
- Will try to make timely partial payments.
No documentation is required, and there are no official forms.
If renters don’t qualify for protection under the new order, the site will create a letter that asks the landlord for flexibility with making rent payments.
Relationships between landlords and renters often start going south because of communication issues. That’s something Hello Landlord’s letters might head off by helping tenants communicate effectively. The letters meet the legal requirements but also sound, well, human, despite being automated. The language is informal, even conciliatory. The tenant empathizes with the landlord – acknowledging that this time is financially hard on them, too – and pledges to work together.
Some sample language: “Although the CDC’s Order may prevent my eviction, I want you to know that I am willing to work with you moving forward during this challenging time.”
Hello Landlord debuted in 2019 and was originally created by SixFifty, a software subsidiary of technology law firm Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati. They collaborated with LawX, the legal design lab at Brigham Young University’s Law School, and the Innovation for Justice (i4J) Program at University of Arizona College of Law to research causes of and solutions to the eviction crisis.