On September 1, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an order to prevent certain evictions to slow the continued spread of COVID-19. In effect through December 31, 2020, the order only applies to certain evictions. Because state and local authorities may impose additional protection against evictions, it is important to know if your municipality has stronger rules or orders against evictions.
This order only prohibits evictions based on the renter’s failure to pay rent as a result of job loss or income reduction caused by COVID-19. Specifically, a renter qualifies for the moratorium if:
- They have lost significant income as a result of the pandemic;
- They qualified for a direct stimulus payment or expect to earn less than $99,000 in 2020, or $198,000 if filing a joint return;
- They unsuccessfully attempted to obtain government assistance to pay rent;
- They made efforts to timely pay at least partial payments; and
- They would likely become homeless if evicted.
To prevent a potential eviction, the renter must provide the landlord with a sworn declaration or statement that they satisfy all of the qualifications. A form is available at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/declaration-form.pdf. Because a sworn statement is required, a renter could face penalties or fines for making a false statement.
Landlords who initiate eviction proceedings against renters who qualify for the moratorium are subject to fines of $100,000 and a year in jail. However, landlords may still evict renters who do not qualify for protection under the order or for reasons other than non-payment of rent, such as the end of a lease that has not been renewed or if a renter is engaging in criminal acts on the rented property.
Finally, rent is not cancelled or forgiven. The order does not provide rent assistance to tenants or mortgage assistance to landlords. Renters will still owe the unpaid rent at the end of the moratorium. Landlords may continue to assess fees, penalties, and interest resulting from non-payment of rent. To ensure compliance, reach out to me or another attorney versed in landlord-tenant law before acting.