By Joanne Cleaver
Your landlord can ask about the emergency income you might receive from the federal government to make it through the COVID-19 crisis, but you don’t have to tell.
The pandemic doesn’t erase your privacy rights as a tenant or as an individual, Alice Kwong, co-chief counsel of housing law at Legal Services of New Jersey (LSNJ), told Digital Privacy News.
“Just because the landlord asks about your stimulus check, you have no legal requirement to answer that question,” she said.
LSNJ is a nonprofit that helps state residents with urgent legal matters, which often involve tenants’ rights. Most states have similar organizations, which can help local renters understand how the laws of their states might apply to their relationships with their landlords.
As the coronavirus pandemic inflicts widespread unemployment, reduced working hours, massive small-business closures and other economic pain, governments at all levels have responded with economic help and expanded legal protection for tenants.
Many municipalities and states have suspended evictions, ensuring that even tenants who cannot pay their rent will not be homeless during a huge public-health crisis.
By Thursday, more than 22 million Americans had filed for unemployment help, the U.S. Labor Department reported, and millions of businesses had reduced hours, paychecks, or both.