Federal law to block evictions, prevent homelessness didn’t save everyone


Confusion over federal eviction moratorium led to selective enforcement

Tenants who got evictions notices in violation of the federal ban had almost no help fighting back.

“Once an eviction is filed, it immediately results in a scarlet E for a tenant or a renter.”

- Emily Benfer, law professor at Wake Forest School of Law


Follow Up: One family helped, others still living on edge of eviction

This summer, the University of Maryland’s Howard Center for Investigative Journalism told the stories of three families living on the edge of losing their homes. All faced eviction after COVID-19 cost them their jobs or their health. But each was hanging on. Barely.

Tulsa landlords were offered rent if they didn’t evict. Few took the deal.

A program in Tulsa, Oklahoma, designed to stem evictions amid the pandemic fell flat when lawyers advised landlords the deal offering to pay back rent was too risky.

Massachusetts’ strong tenant protections weren’t enough to stop evictions

Massachusetts had some of the nation's strongest tenant protections during the federal CARES Act's eviction moratorium, with thousands of residential evictions suspended in state court and a block on the filing of most new cases.

Georgia renters enjoy few protections as landlords seek to evict

On March 14, Georgia effectively halted eviction proceedings in the state. Yet landlords were still free to file paperwork laying the groundwork for evictions.

Milwaukee evictions spurred by COVID-19, longstanding racism and poverty

States across the country temporarily barred landlords from evicting tenants this year as the coronavirus reached the United States, forcing businesses to shutter and unemployment to spike. Wisconsin was one of the first states to lift its eviction moratorium on May 26.

Unable to evict, Massachusetts landlords avoid riskier tenants

The Massachusetts eviction moratorium is creating a deeper affordable housing crisis in the state, forcing landlords once willing to take on financially riskier tenants, like those with poor credit, to balk at the prospect.


The coronavirus pandemic shut down huge chunks of the economy, costing millions of Americans their jobs -- and paychecks. The federal government put in place a limited eviction ban to keep them from joining the ranks of the homeless. A national consortium of student reporters spent the summer finding out whether the moratorium worked as intended.

The stories here are the result of a collaboration among the University of Maryland’s Howard Center for Investigative Journalism, Big Local News at Stanford University, Boston University and the University of Arkansas.

The project was supported by a grant from the Pulitzer Center, the Scripps Howard Foundation and the Park Foundation. It was produced by the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism and Capital News Service at the University of Maryland's Philip Merrill College of Journalism, which honors the late news industry executive and pioneer Roy W. Howard.

Top photo: Mike Simons