On Tuesday, President Donald Trump announced that his administration will be giving struggling renters a reprieve. The eviction moratorium is a CDC Agency Order titled, “Temporary Halt in Residential Evictions to Prevent the Further Spread of COVID-19.”
The new eviction moratorium is designed to keep millions of Americans in their homes during the coming months who may be struggling as a result of the pandemic, which has caused massive job loss. It takes effect immediately and applies through Dec. 31, 2020.
This is an aggressive relief measure and will be a total ban on evictions of tenants who are unable to pay rent because of COVID-19. This will temporarily save millions of U.S. renters from being evicted.
The CDC, acting under its authority to regulate public health, is covering all 43 million U.S. residential renters. But they must meet income-eligibility requirements.
On Aug. 6, after Congress failed to enact new coronavirus legislation, President Trump tasked the CDC and other federal agencies with finding a way to stop evictions during the pandemic. The CARES Act previously served as a federal moratorium on evictions, but it expired at the end of July.
Almost every expert has proposed a halt to evictions. But negotiations had broken down in Congress. And no new legislation was passed.
Who qualifies and what is required?
- It applies to households that expect to earn no more than $99,000 (individuals) or $198,000 (filing a joint tax return) in 2020.
- Applies to individuals that were not required to report any income to the IRS in 2019.
- If you have received an Economic Impact Payment (stimulus check) according to Section 2201 of the CARES Act it applies to you.
Tenants will be required to file sworn declarations that eviction would leave them homeless or force them into “close quarters in a new congregate or shared living setting.” And they must state they’ve “used best efforts to obtain all available government assistance for rent or housing.”
To be clear, renters who qualify will still owe accrued rent. And the new order doesn’t prevent landlords from charging or collecting rent. This action delays but does not prevent evictions.
It is a good stop-gap measure until Congress and the White House can agree on another COVID-19 relief bill.
Evictions for reasons other than nonpayment of rent will be allowed to proceed. If a lease term expires or if a tenant is in default of the lease they can still be evicted.
The CDC order works with existing state legislation. Some states already have generous protections and they would remain in place. Others, like the rent moratorium in New York, that’s set to expire Oct. 1, would be extended.
This rent eviction moratorium will be welcome news to the tenants who live in 34 states that have no coronavirus related renter protections.
Landlords are still concerned that a sweeping eviction moratorium does not address tenants’ core financial needs nor does it fix the underlying financial pressures and obligations of rental-property owners.
How is it going to be enforced?
Enforcement would be “Federal authorities and cooperating State and local authorities,” working together, according to the CDC order.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is authorized to aid local agencies in “enforcement of Federal quarantine rules and regulations, including in the enforcement of this Order.”
If landlords seek to evict tenants who are covered under the order, the penalties are especially stiff. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) could impose fines of as much as $500,000 and even jail time.
Why is the CDC involved in tenant issues?
The CDC is using a valid concept that the order will serve as an “effective public health measure” to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
For months, housing advocates have warned that a mass eviction crisis could force thousands of Americans out of their homes and onto the streets or into crowded shelters. This would most likely lead to an acceleration of the spread of the coronavirus. The order also said that “housing stability helps protect public health.”
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