Evictions and Mortgage Relief
The financial toll caused by the COVID-19 pandemic will be historic and nothing like Tennessee citizens have seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s. All of the sudden, through no fault of their own, Tennesseans lost jobs due to economic shutdowns and “Stay at Home” orders enacted by government officials. With no income (or reduced income), many in Tennessee are finding it difficult to pay bills and necessities, including rent and mortgage payments.Can I Be Evicted in Tennessee During COVID-19?
In Tennessee, evictions are often handled in state court, namely General Sessions court. The Tennessee Supreme Court, on April 24, 2020, released an Order stating no Judge, Clerk, or other court official shall “take any action to effectuate an eviction, ejectment, or other displacement from a residence” until at least May 31, 2020, given the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the Order does not otherwise modify the terms of the contractual lease, and landlords can still file the eviction paperwork in Court. If you are having trouble paying your rent, you should contact your landlord, explain your situation, and try to work out payment arrangements.
On May 4, 2020, the Federal Housing Finance Agency launched a new tool for renters to find out if they are protected from evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic. For the time being, renters in certain multifamily properties with a Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae-backed mortgage are covered by an eviction moratorium (and landlords of these properties can enter into a forbearance arrangement if their tenants cannot pay rent). Renters experiencing financial hardship and unable to pay their rent should contact their landlords.Resources for Tenants in Tennessee Unable to Pay Rent Due to COVID-19
- Local governments are trying to do their part to help citizens struggling to pay for basic necessities and rent payments. For example, on April 15, 2020, the Shelby County Commission approved $2.5 million in funding for COVID-19 relief. Through the Shelby County Division of Community Services, citizens can apply for rent and mortgage assistance, and eligible families can receive between $1,000 and $1,500 for help paying their mortgage or rent.
- Tennessee Department of Health
- Tennessee Fair Housing Council
- Shelby County Housing Department
- Memphis Housing Authority
- Nashville Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency
- Frequently Asked Questions for Tennessee renters
With Governor Lee declaring a “State of Emergency” in Tennessee, the Tennessee Public Utility Commission ordered that any utility it regulates cannot disconnect natural gas, electric, or water service to any customer for reason of nonpayment, at least while Tennessee is under a “State of Emergency.” Utility companies across Tennessee have also suspended cut-offs for nonpayment during the Coronavirus pandemic, and are encouraging payment of bills online to reduce person to person interaction.
- Memphis Light, Gas & Water (MLGW):
- Nashville Electric Services: will not cut off for nonpayment or charge late fees until May 31, 2020
- Chattanooga Gas: suspended service disconnections for nonpayment effective March 13, 2020
- Knoxville Utilities Board: as of March 16, 2020, suspended disconnections until further notice, and waiving late fees that have accrued since March 16, 2020 for customers who call for bill payment assistance
- Jackson Energy Authority: suspended disconnections for nonpayment until further notice
If you are having trouble paying your mortgage, you should contact your lender immediately.
On March 27, 2020, President Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) into law. A provision of the CARES Act allows borrowers with federally-backed mortgages to request loan forbearance for up to 180 days. The law requires borrowers requesting forbearance to attest to the loan servicer that they are enduring financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic. During this period, eligible homeowners may not incur late fees, and foreclosures and evictions may be suspended.
Loan forbearance is not given automatically; borrowers must call their bank or loan servicer. If you are given forbearance, keep in mind those funds are still due to the lender. Ask your lender if the funds (1) will need to be paid immediately upon the end of the forbearance period; (2) can be paid over a specified period of time; or (3) will be due in full at the end of the loan. To find out if your loan may be federally backed, you can search the websites of Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.
For more information for Tennessee mortgage borrowers, please see this FAQ web page.