Op-Ed: The Rent Moratorium is Theft, and We Rejoice It’s Over

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There’s another word for this rent moratorium where Montanans haven’t paid their landlords in over a year. It’s called theft.

In February of this year, Gianforte affirmed Executive Order 2-2021, which continued to enshrine the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) rent moratorium by saying “Evictions and foreclosure actions against Montana renters and homeowners for failure to pay are prohibited in the same manner as established by CDC and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) temporary orders in federal law.”

In short: it prohibited any landlord from evicting tenants for nonpayment. The result was that for nearly a year, hundreds of Montanans have been living in other people’s houses or apartments rent-free, putting the homeowner in crushing debt, all the while sanctioned by the powers that be and upheld by a citizenry so used to the government stealing from them that they don’t even recognize what constitutes thievery anymore.

With the eviction moratorium having expired on Saturday, July 31, it means that nearly 400 Montanans who haven’t been paying their rent for nearly a year face eviction, and we couldn’t be happier for it. The fact that Democrats are so vehemently against it, saying that it’s cruel and heartless for the landlords to evict make it even more so.

It’s not like they were without help. The state has distributed nearly 14 million dollars so far to over 2400 households- an average of $5600 each, with another 830 more on the books seeking assistance. According to the AP:

Montana has received more than $350 million in federal funding to help tenants with outstanding rent, utility payments and other expenses. Last year, it allocated $50 million from the federal CARES Act for rental assistance and ended up providing $8.4 million to 2,500 tenants. The $600 per week in supplemental unemployment payments last year appeared to be a factor in lower-than-expected application numbers early in the pandemic, the Department of Commerce said.

Late last year and this year, the state received another $352 million in federal emergency rental assistance, the minimum amount allocated to small states. Renters can receive up to $2,200 per month for past-due and future rent payments, up to $300 for utility payments and $50 per month for internet. Households are eligible for that assistance for a maximum of 15 months, dating back to April 1, 2020, if they earn less than 80% of the median income in their area and can show the pandemic affected their income.

It is not complicated. We are not unsympathetic to those whom the government prohibited from working and are now facing homelessness. That doesn’t change the fact that if you can’t afford to stay somewhere, you leave.

You find alternate arrangements- friends, family, your local church, and you stay with them, as much as it chafes and bruises. You clean up the house of all your belonging, wash the walls, steam clean the carpets, and give it back in better shape than you got it. If you can talk to the landlord and the both of you can come to arrangements: reduced rent for a while with more on the backend, or in exchange for upkeeping the property, then that is a great compromise.

But you don’t have a right to another’s property simply because you can’t afford to have it.

If someone wants you out, and you’re not paying, then you need to leave. It is a shameful, small man or woman who would do otherwise. What’s the alternative? Hurting someone else and crippling their livelihood simply because you caught a bad break, or have become injured by another? That’s no excuse, and they wouldn’t tolerate it either.

These landlords are not all soulless corporations or businesses that can absorb the losses either. (not that it would make it right even if to were) Landlords Reuben Dellas from Missoula, Esther Fescher from near Great Falls, and one man who will remain nameless describe their experiences

…”It’s devastating. I haven’t been paid in 8 months and I depend on that money to survive. I’ve begged and pleaded with him to leave my home, even offered him 1000$ I borrowed from my parents to leave, and he won’t. I had to take on another full-time night job just to pay the mortgage on a house I can’t collect from.”

…”It’s sick. It’s Disgusting. My husband and I had to declare bankruptcy because my tenant (Name) wouln’t leave. We had people who were willing to rent the place and actually pay us, but we couldn’t. I’m sick. My husband is sick. We’re losing everything, and (Renter’s Name) doesn’t even care.”

“…I hate the (expletive). He has cost me so much, I told the guy he’s not a man. What kind of man takes what doesn’t belong to him? What kind a man can sleep at night knowing he’s in your face screwing over others? My wife’s crying and her hair’s falling out because she can’t balance theh books. If You can’t afford it, then move! Don’t be a (expletive)”

Have some integrity, even when the world says you don’t have to.




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