Since the end of the federal eviction moratorium in August, renters in Utah who are behind on their payments may be forced to juggle competing priorities in dealing with their landlord.
Housing advocates say the state still has millions of dollars in emergency rental assistance funds to distribute, but the program has not gone as smoothly as tenants and property owners would like. Complicating the process, during the pandemic, the cost of renting a home or apartment in Utah increased sharply.
Francisca Blanc, advocacy and outreach coordinator for the Utah Housing Coalition, said demand is outpacing supply.
"The prices, the rent are increasing, increasing, increasing," Blanc observed. "There is no stop, there's no push on the brakes about it. I don't think it's sustainable at all because a lot of people are paying 50% of their income on rent and this has an effect on everything else in their life."
Blanc pointed out despite some paperwork hassles early on, the rental-assistance programs have improved since the state began sending the rent money directly to the landlords in recent weeks. She noted, so far, the number of actual evictions has remained fairly steady, without the expected increase.
She added when renters do move out, they encounter something akin to "sticker shock" when they look for new housing.
"Even if they get a 60-day notice that the lease is terminated, they cannot find housing," Blanc reported. "And the only reason they are terminating the leases is to get renters in that they can pay way more than the previous person."
Eviction filings in Utah were down to about 2,000 in the first six months of 2021, a 44% decrease from the same period in 2019, but Blanc emphasized the number is expected to grow unless more money is distributed.
"The state of Utah has been providing emergency rental assistance from the legislation that was passed by the Congress last December," Blanc outlined. "Originally, they received about $250 million. I think they're down to about $140 million."
She stressed there still are several options for people who need assistance or legal help with their rental situation, and offered a guide to rental assistance at utahhousing.org, or renters can call 211 Utah for information and referrals.