Yesterday the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention issued a nationwide order halting evictions through the end of the year. The order covers 43 million U.S. residential renters if they meet income and other eligibility requirements.
The CDC’s action follows President Trump’s Executive Order of August 8, 2020. The order directed the CDC to evaluate whether temporarily halting evictions for failure to pay rent would be reasonably necessary to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. In its Order issued yesterday, the CDC concluded that such a temporary ban on evictions would be an effective measure to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
Who is Covered Under the Eviction Moratorium
The CDC’s order is more expansive than the eviction moratorium that was part of the CARES Act. The CARES Act covered about 12.3 million renters in apartments and single-family homes that were financed by mortgages backed by the federal government. The current moratorium applies regardless of how a rental property is financed.
To qualify for the protection, a renter must provide a written certification covering several requirements. First, the individual must certify that they have used “best efforts” to obtain available government assistance for rent or housing.
Second, they must certify one of three things related to their income:
- That the individual expects to earn no more than $99,000 in 2020, or $198,000 if filing a joint tax return; or
- That they were not required to report any income to the IRS in 2019; or
- That they received a stimulus check (Economic Impact Payment) under the CARES Act.
Third, they must certify that they are unable to pay the full rent due to “substantial loss of household income, loss of compensable hours of work or wages, a lay-off, or extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses.”
Fourth, they must use “best efforts” to make partial payments on time that are “as close to the full payment as the individual’s circumstances may permit, taking into account other non discretionary expenses.”
Finally, renters must certify that an eviction would likely “render the individual homeless—or force the individual to move into and live in close quarters in a new congregate or share living setting—because the individual has not other available housing options.”
Renters can find the written certification form at the end of the CDC’s order. The declaration must by signed subject to the penalties of perjury.
Who Is Not Covered by the Eviction Moratorium
In addition to the above requirements, the order does not apply in those areas that already have a moratorium on residential evictions. Specifically, it does not apply to any state, local, territorial or tribal area that has an eviction moratorium that “provides the same or greater level of public-health protection than the requirements” in the CDC’s order.
It also does not apply to American Samoa, which has not reported any Covid-19 cases.
Renters Still Owe Rent
The order does not relieve renters of the obligation to pay rent. In addition, the order does not prevent landlords from charging or collecting fees, penalties, or interest as a result of a tenant’s failure to pay rent on time.
In addition, the order does not preclude evictions for any one of the following reasons:
- Criminal activity on the premises;
- Threatening the health or safety of other tenants;
- Damaging or posing an immediate and significant risk of damage to the property;
- Violating building codes or health ordinances related to health and safety; or
- Violating any of the terms of the rental agreement other than the timely payment of rent.
At the end of the eviction moratorium tenants will owe any unpaid rent. This creates another risk as unpaid financial obligations grow for many who may not be able to pay the rent when the moratorium ends.
Rental Assistance and Landlords
The eviction moratorium raises concerns for landlords who need to continue to pay mortgages and other expenses related to rental properties. The National Apartment Association said the order “risked further harm to the economy and would amplify the housing affordability crisis and destroy the rental housing industry,” according to The NY Times.
The CDC’s order does describe the available federal assistance made available to tenants. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development informed the CDC that entities who received Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) or Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds under the CARES Act may use these funds to provide temporary rental assistance.
Still, the question remains how the eviction moratorium will affect landlords through the rest of the year.