After a yearlong moratorium due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some evictions will resume in St. Louis County this week after an administrative order from the St. Louis County Court.
More than 500 eviction orders in the county have been on hold during the past 12 months due to local court orders based on recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Both agencies declared that evictions during the pandemic created a health crisis, and that it was not in the interest of public health to displace people from their homes during the COVID-19 emergency.
Initially, evictions will be limited to those involving tenants or their visitors who have engaged in or promoted drug-related criminal activity on their rental property. Evictions will also be carried out when failing to do so would result in physical injury to other tenants and landlords, or result in substantial property damage. The St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office will also execute evictions for leased property rented for commercial purposes.
All other pending evictions in St. Louis County will resume April 5.
“In meeting regularly with attorneys for tenants as well as landlords for the past several months, it is clear that everyone has been facing serious financial challenges throughout the pandemic,” said St. Louis County Presiding Judge Michael D. Burton in a news release. “Fortunately, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Federal funding is available to help tenants catch up on back rent and utility bills, and help landlords recoup their losses. As more of our employees and members of the public have the opportunity to be vaccinated, we continue to follow the best advice of health care experts so that all court functions – including evictions – can be carried out safely.”
A significant factor considered when prohibiting evictions is the health and well-being of the employees of the Sheriff’s Office, many of whom are tasked with carrying out the actual evictions. The Sheriff’s Office is part of the Circuit Court. Two members of the office died of COVID-19 related causes last year.
As of last Friday, however, St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office employees are fully vaccinated or have had the opportunity to become fully vaccinated, and will be required to wear personal protective equipment to prevent exposure to the coronavirus. Additional local law enforcement officers will be available to help minimize the time spent inside residential units.
A federal eviction moratorium issued by the CDC in effect since Sept. 4, 2020 will end March 31. Starting in April, approximately $30 million will become available nationwide to landlords to pay for rent through the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (“E.R.A.P.”) and the State Assistance for Housing Relief Program (“S.A.F.H.R.”). Additional funding is anticipated.
This money can be used to cover back rent and utilities for rent and utility arrears accrued from the beginning of April 2020 and “up to three months of forward rent and prepaid full utility assistance.”
Eligible tenants can apply for financial assistance to be paid directly to their landlords or utility providers. In requesting forward rental assistance through E.R.A.P. and/or S.A.F.H.R., landlords cannot evict their tenants for the period for which they are receiving E.R.A.P. and/or S.A.F.H.R. assistance.
Starting tomorrow, landlords who wish to evict their tenants because of nonpayment must complete affidavits when filing their petitions that indicate that they have not sought and are not seeking financial assistance from E.R.A.P. or S.A.F.H.R. for the period of time designated in their eviction petitions.
Information about how to get assistance from E.R.A.P. and S.A.F.H.R. will be available at https://stlcorona.com/resident/resources-rent/ as of March 29, 2021.
General information about E.R.A.P. can be found at https://home.treasury.gov/policy-issues/cares/emergency-rental-assistance-program. General information about S.A.F.H.R. can be found at https://www.mohousingresources.com/safhr.
For answers to frequently asked questions about E.R.A.P. and S.A.F.H.R., go to https://home.treasury.gov/system/files/136/ERA-Frequently-Asked-Questions_Pub-3-16-