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SALT LAKE CITY — A nationwide moratorium on evictions will lift in two weeks, but advocates say there's plenty of financial assistance to help Utahns who are facing rising rents to stay in their homes.
About $180 million in federal relief money is up for grabs in the Beehive State, and it can help cover three months of rent at a time, plus past-due payments, utility bills and other costs.
The state has parceled out roughly $23.5 million to about 7,600 renters since March via an additional round of federal relief and is encouraging anyone whose finances were affected by the pandemic — whether they lost work, forked over more money than usual for child care or incurred other costs — to apply online at rentrelief.utah.gov.
Those hard hit by forces other than the pandemic can still get help through a network of nonprofits that includes Utah Community Action.
A September 2020 directive from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has offered protection from nonpayment-based evictions in the pandemic, an attempt to limit the spread of COVID-19. But the moratorium expires at the end of the month and housing advocates are worried.
"We are very concerned that we might see a wave of evictions that might kick in July 1," said Francisca Blanc with the Utah Housing Coalition.
Blanc joined other advocates at a news conference this week in Salt Lake City, where they urged renters to put themselves in the best spot possible by getting in touch with their landlords as soon as they know they may not be able to cover next month's payment.
The second step to take is applying for the financial aid through the state portal or nonprofits.
Heather Lester, a mediator for tenants and landlords, said the federal rent relief money can be used for more sorts of payments than the types of funding available to Utahns before the pandemic.
"It's just something people really need to take attention to if they're in trouble," she said. "There's still a ton of money out there."
The advocates pointed to census survey data from a two-week period ending June 7 that indicates one-third of those behind on mortgages or rent in the Beehive State believe they're likely to face eviction or foreclosure.
Attorney Aro Han with the nonprofit People's Legal Aid encouraged anyone who has received a written eviction notice from a landlord to move out if possible before the deadline printed on the notice. She emphasized that Utah law allows property owners to get a court order granting them three times the actual costs owed if a person stays in the apartment past that time.
It means a person who stays for one month after the time period on the notice expires will end up owing three months of rent, she said.
Han said those who have no other place to go should get in touch with People's Legal Aid, 801-477-6975.
"We may not be able to rewrite the laws to prevent you from being evicted at all, but we can help you get a better outcome for your family."