Housing officials welcome extension of eviction, foreclosure moratorium

The Montana Housing at the Department of Commerce has reminded landlords and lenders of a federal moratorium on evictions and foreclosures, which has been extended through the end of the calendar year.

The regulations, issued to provide some protection during COVID-19, were extended last week by various agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Federal Housing Administration.

The temporary moratorium on evictions applies to all statewide rental units and prevents landlords or property owners from pursuing eviction if a tenant is unable to pay full rent due to loss of income or hours worked.

“While we have not yet seen evictions hit Missoula hard, it’s only a matter of time before layoffs and underemployment due to the coronavirus catch up with us in Missoula,” said Eran Pehan, direct of the city’s Office of Housing and Community Development.

“The temporary moratorium provides Missoulians a bit more breathing room and time to get back on their feet – in addition to keeping our community safer by keeping people at home.”

The order doesn’t relieve a tenant of his or her obligation to pay rent or comply with any other obligations of a housing contract. Nor does the order stop a landlord from charging fees, penalties or interest as a result of late or non payment.

Still, the program provides tenants some protection during challenging financial times.

“If a tenant is unable to make rent, we advise that individual to communicate with their landlord about the situation and to apply for the housing assistance that is available,” said Emilie Ritter Saunders, acting deputy directory of the Montana Department of Commerce. “Should a renter qualify, those monthly payments are made directly to the landlord.”

Landlords who come up short on their own payments due to loss of income, such as rent, may also apply for assistance.

“If a landlord is unable to make a mortgage payment due to loss of income related to the pandemic, that individual may also be eligible to receive monthly housing assistance,” Saunders said.

The Federal Housing Authority also has extended a moratorium on foreclosures through the end of the calendar year, as have the VA and USDA. The orders issued by each agency apply to various home loans.