Mary Gomez, 32, a mother of four, makes breakfast while her children attend virtual school at their apartment in Mesa, Arizona.

PHOENIX — Landlords wrongfully acted to evict metro Phoenix renters during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, despite a federal law protecting tenants from losing their homes if they couldn’t pay rent. 

More than 900 evictions were filed against tenants who likely should have been protected by the federal CARES Act, according to an investigation by the Arizona Republic, part of the USA TODAY Network.

Most of those renters also were wrongfully charged hundreds of dollars in late and legal fees.

Many had no lawyer to help them navigate the eviction process, no one to tell them about legal protections and nowhere to go when they were locked out of their homes.

The CARES Act, passed by Congress on March 26 to provide fast economic help to people hurt by the pandemic, stated landlords with federally backed mortgages couldn’t evict tenants before July 26 for not paying rent. Nearly half of the nation’s mortgages are federally backed.

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