On September 4, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a nationwide moratorium on evictions that temporarily halts residential evictions “to prevent the further spread of COVID-19.” The prohibition affects all operating rental properties until the end of the year.
Why Did the CDC Issue the Moratorium?
The Federal Register reported that there are over 5.5 million cases of the novel coronavirus (SARS-COV-2) in the United States as of August 24, 2020. “In the context of a pandemic,” the CDC explains, “eviction moratoria—like quarantine, isolation, and social distancing—can be an effective public health measure utilized to prevent the spread of communicable disease.” The purpose of the moratorium is to make it easier for self-isolation initiatives to be enforced if people become ill or are at risk of severe illness from contracting COVID-19.
In mid-September, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that an average of 33.34 percent of adult Americans face a likelihood of eviction or foreclosure. Though that percentage is lower than when the same survey was conducted in July (40.18%), it is still a substantial number. (See diagrams in this article for each state.) The number of people facing eviction complicates how property owners can operate their properties in light of the CDC order.
How the CDC Moratorium Affects Your Tenants
If renters are facing financial hardship and struggle to make rent payments, there are steps they can take to avoid eviction. To prevent eviction for non-payment, the CDC requires tenants to sign and submit a CDC declaration to the property owner.
The following steps and qualifications must be adhered to before a tenant can submit the form:
1.The renter has tried to “obtain all available government assistance for rent or housing.”
2.The renter expects to earn less than $99,000 (individual) or $198,000 (joint)in 2020, was not required to report income in 2019, or received an Economic Impact Payment (stimulus check) from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
3.The renter is unable to pay full rent due to a substantial loss of income or extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses.
4.The renter is “using best efforts to make timely partial payments that are as close to the full payment as the individual’s circumstances permit.”
5.An eviction would render the renter homeless or forced into close housing quarters or shared living situations due to no other available housing options.
Though tenants cannot be evicted for non-payment until the moratorium expires (if they follow the proper steps), the CDC order is not a rent-forgiveness initiative. Renters are still required to make payments and follow lease terms.
It is recommended that tenants who are experiencing financial hardship and struggle to pay rent contact state and federal rent assistance programs to find out how to best pay their rent.
How the CDC Moratorium Affects Property Owners
Under the CDC’s order, property owners cannot evict a tenant where the Order’s jurisdiction applies. The moratorium doesn’t relieve a tenant of rent payment responsibility or fail to comply with other lease obligations. “Nothing in this Order precludes the charging or collecting of fees, penalties, or interest as a result of the failure to pay rent or other housing payment on a timely basis, ”under the terms of a lease or contract. Property owners can still charge fees, penalties, and interest based on the terms of the lease agreement.
The CDC is careful to state that renters “may also still be evicted for reasons other than not paying rent.” Tenants must still follow all terms of a lease agreement.
Property owners must be aware that the CDC moratorium doesn’t apply to all evictions. Only tenants who qualify by submitting a CDC declaration form are covered by the CDC order.
Once a CDC declaration is in force, property owners must abide by the moratorium’s terms or face severe federal penalties.
The federal government does not currently have a relief program for property owners. However, some states, like Utah, have organized relief programs for property owners to help tenants avoid eviction by accessing local resources. Check out what programs your state has available.
Become an ally to your tenants. Talk to them early and frequently about their ability to pay rent. Learn about the rental assistance programs available in your area. If your tenants struggle to pay rent, guide them to federal and state assistance programs so they can get the help they need.
The CDC moratorium eviction protection is not a resolution to eviction and non-payment problems, but a postponement until Congress is able to solve the housing crisis with a solid plan. More direct rental assistance is needed to address growing concerns facing property owners and their tenants. The CDC moratorium poses more questions than answers as individual states interpret its somewhat vague tenets. Hopefully, federal agencies and legislature will soon shed more light on the moratorium, so property owners and tenants know what to expect.