THE NEUTRAL ZONE
The eviction of certain renters has been halted through the end of 2020 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The CDC stated that the eviction moratorium will facilitate self-isolation for the sick and at-risk and it will also make stay-at-home and social distancing orders easier to enact. President Donald Trump stated, “I want to make it unmistakably clear that I’m protecting people from evictions.”
The action was enacted by the CDC under 42 CFR § 70.2, which permits the organization to take measures to prevent the spread of diseases when U.S. state or territory measures are insufficient. The order does not apply in states or regions with moratoriums that provide “the same or greater level of public health protection.”
Evictions will be allowed to proceed for reasons other than nonpayment, such as those for leases that have run out or for tenants who violated their lease. Landlords can bring eviction cases against tenants as their leases expire.
At the end of the eviction moratorium, tenants will still owe any unpaid rent and the order does not describe federal assistance made available for tenants. Diane Yentel, president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, told the New York Times the order is “a half-measure that extends a financial cliff for renters to fall off when the moratorium expires and back rent is owed” due to the lack of financial assistance for tenants.
The order does not provide a way for landlords to recoup unpaid rent. Doug Bibby, president of the National Multifamily Housing Council, said, “An eviction moratorium will ultimately harm the very people it aims to help by making it impossible for housing providers, particularly small owners, to meet their financial obligations and continue to provide shelter to their residents.”
The criteria to qualify are as follows:
- Have an income of $198,000 or less for couples filing jointly, or $99,000 for single filers.
- Demonstrate they have sought government assistance to make their rental payments.
- Affirmatively declare they are unable to pay rent because of COVID-19 hardships.
- Affirm they are likely to become homeless if they are evicted.
CDC to issue order temporarily halting some evictions for public health reasons – Axios – 9/1/2020
It’s unclear how effective the moratorium will be without any extra funding behind the plan. Experts say that failing to compensate landlords who are no longer receiving rent payments could cause a “massive destabilizing effect” in housing markets, according to CNBC. The action may face legal challenges from landlords who have seen rental income decrease from the pandemic, according to Bloomberg.
The Statutory Authority for the Nationwide Eviction Moratorium – Reason – 9/1/2020
The Director cannot order state courts to not process summary evictions. A landlord could rely on these processes, but then face a federal prosecution for doing so. Would any landlord risk it? This eviction moratorium lacks even a patina of statutory authorization. Landlords can, and should challenge this executive action.
Unsanitized: Federal “Eviction Moratorium” Is a Leaky Boat – The American Prospect – 9/2/2020
The order does not and could not cancel rent or relieve people of the obligation to pay, nor does it provide rental assistance for past due amounts. CDC simply doesn’t have that authority. Landlords could still charge fees and interest on unpaid rent, and after the order runs out on December 31, ask for all of the past due payments upon threat of eviction. At best this delays the reckoning, which is good but not a sustainable solution.
White House orders eviction ban through end of year – Roll Call – 9/1/2020
No additional funds were made available on Tuesday, and the senior White House officials later clarified that this referred to funds given to states and localities in March as part of the $2 trillion economic relief package and earlier appropriations. Landlords, who have joined renter-advocate groups in calling for an additional $100 billion in direct aid, may face an uptick in unpaid rents, which could disrupt the mortgage bond market.