Season 3 | Episode 3
Oct 1, 2020

Can’t make rent, can’t get evicted

Marilyn Hoffman is one of some 28 million Americans who could face eviction because of the coronavirus pandemic. And rent's due again today.

Marilyn Hoffman only had a couple days’ notice for her eviction hearing, but she brought a secret weapon.

She watched as one family after another went before the judge, who upheld their eviction and ordered them to pay back rent or vacate their homes. When it was her turn, Hoffman produced a form from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which had ordered that she couldn’t be evicted before the end of the year.

“I showed him the paper [and] he said, ‘Miss Hoffman, this does not apply to you,'” she said. “I said it says right here on page 18. … It says all landlords.”

The judge ordered Hoffman to pay $3,000 or get out of the North Carolina house she’d already spent some 80% of her income for rent. But here’s the thing: He was wrong. Hoffman fit all the standards for the CDC order — she earns less than $99,000, she’s made her best efforts to get rental assistance, and she’s at risk of being homeless. But on that day in court, it didn’t matter.

“It feels like a roller coaster, because you got new legal aid saying one thing, he’s saying something different. I don’t know what to believe,” she said. “What happens to other people that was evicted the same day that I was in court and not one person got help?”

Hoffman is one of some 28 million Americans who could face eviction because of the coronavirus pandemic. And rent’s due again today. When all this started six months ago, federal, state and local governments came up with a patchwork of protections to keep people in their homes, but many of them expired this summer. Now, renters facing eviction are trying to navigate a system with new and very confusing rules.

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