If you’re a landlord, then you’re well aware that many state governors enacted eviction moratoriums to protect vulnerable tenants during stay-at-home orders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, certain metropolitan areas (including Atlanta and Boston) issued moratoriums of their own, while some state Supreme Courts also intervened by issuing emergency orders halting eviction proceedings. In some instances, evictions were allowed at the discretion of lower courts.
The federal government also got involved when the Director of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued an executive order halting certain evictions based on nonpayment of rent. The CDC’s order is much more limited than most state and local moratoriums, requiring tenants to take certain actions to stop the eviction process from moving forward.
These moratoriums are likely to put landlords in a financial and moral bind. While nonpayment of rent can threaten your livelihood, especially in the absence of additional federal relief for small businesses, no one really wants to throw someone out of their home while COVID-19 and its variants are still a threat and workers are still suffering from massive job losses and loss of income. While we are all hoping for a miracle recovery by year’s end, the health of the economy still remains tentative at best.
It’s a tough time for landlords and tenants, as the novel coronavirus continues to upend life as we know it. Understanding which eviction moratoriums apply to your rental property, when they expire, their scope, and related details will help you make informed, legally defensible decisions.
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Is there an eviction moratorium that is still active in my property’s state right now?
Most eviction moratoriums that were enacted at the state and local levels have expired. Notable exceptions are listed below:
- California – Through 9/30/2021
- Connecticut – Through 6/30/2021
- Hawaii – Through 8/6/2021
- Illinois – Through 7/24/2021
- Kentucky – Through 6/30/2021
- Minnesota – Through 7/14/2021
- New York – Through 8/31/2021
- North Carolina – Through 6/30/2021
- Oregon – Through 6/30/2021 (60-day extension with proof of rental assistance application)
- Vermont – Through 7/15/2021
- Washington – Through 6/30/2021 (Eviction Moratorium Bridge offered after June 30)
Some states have halted, put a hold on, or at least limited evictions for nonpayment of rent until the COVID-19 emergency has ended, with no firm deadline set. These locations, many of which require proof of substantial income loss due to the pandemic, include:
- District of Columbia
- New Jersey
- New Mexico (By order of the NM Supreme Court)
Many states that don’t have a moratorium are offering grants and other forms of financial assistance to tenants who are behind on their rent and facing eviction because of a legitimate hardship. Each state has its own eligibility requirements and processes, but here are some examples:
Keep in mind that this pandemic is a moving target and your state may issue a new moratorium or extend existing ones at any time.
Is the eviction moratorium only for late rent?
Eviction moratoriums are meant to address the financial hardships many tenants are suffering as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, they generally protect tenants only for the inability to pay rent. In other words, these moratoriums generally don’t prevent you from issuing an Eviction Notice for other causes, such as egregious (or repeated) violations of the contract or illegal activities.
Even if your tenant is protected, however, it’s always a good idea to send them a Late Rent Notice if they fall behind. You might also want to work out a Late Rent Payment Agreement if you believe you and the tenant can compromise on rent payments. There are many state and local rent assistance programs available, funded both by federal and state governments. Any rent assistance your tenant can get is back-rent money in your pocket, so it could be beneficial for both you and your tenant to check out the nationwide directory of state and local rental assistance programs posted online by the National Low Income Housing Coalition.
When does the federal moratorium on evictions issued by the CDC end?
The federal eviction moratorium issued by the CDC covers certain tenants through July 31, 2021, with the goal of slowing the spread of COVID-19 by preventing overcrowding in shelters or other emergency living situations that may follow an eviction. The CDC has indicated it will provide no further extensions beyond July. Even if you started the eviction process prior to the CDC’s order, it could halt the process if the affected tenant is eligible. Also, tenants are still responsible for paying any past due rent owed once the moratorium ends.
To be eligible for protection, tenants must hand you a signed declaration form (under penalty of perjury) affirming that they:
- Earned no more than $99,000 ($198,000 for a couple filing taxes jointly) in 2020, or expects to earn no more than $99,000 ($198,000 for a couple filing taxes jointly) in 2021; are not required to report 2020 income to the IRS, or received a stimulus check.
- Tried seeking government assistance for rent or housing.
- Are unable to make full or partial payments because of a substantial loss of household income, loss of work hours or wages, lay-off, or “extraordinary” out-of-pocket medical expenses.
- Are using best efforts to make timely partial payments that are as close to full payments as the tenant’s situation permits taking into consideration the tenant’s other nondiscretionary expenses.
- Would become homeless or have to move into a congregate or shared living situation, living close quarters, because the tenant has no other options.
As a landlord, you’re not required to verify all of this information, but you may require supporting information as a condition of compliance with the moratorium.
Are there exceptions to the CDC’s eviction moratorium?
There are some exceptions and ambiguities in the moratorium. For one thing, it does not protect tenants who engage in criminal activity, destroy property, cause major or repeated disruptions, or any other behaviors (besides late rent payment) that normally might result in an eviction. Evicting a tenant only on the basis of trespass when the tenant is remaining on the residential property but not paying rent is not, according to the CDC, a proper cause for eviction. Also, the CDC moratorium exempts the owners of motels, hotels, or short term rentals.
Another question mark is how to proceed if, for example, a tenant’s lease is set to expire during the moratorium period. If a landlord who may have wanted to evict a tenant simply chooses not to renew the tenant’s lease because they’re late with the rent, is it technically an eviction? If the tenant stays past the expiration date of the lease because they can’t afford to move elsewhere, is that grounds for an eviction?
One big concern among landlords is how the moratorium may impact their ability to pay the mortgage on their property or cover other operating expenses. Many of these ambiguities will likely be decided in the courts.
Before you evict, make sure you understand COVID-era moratoriums
Landlords typically don’t enjoy going through the eviction process, but it’s sometimes necessary, both as a last resort for problem tenants and for other reasons unrelated to lease violations. If you find yourself in the unenviable position of posting an Eviction Notice, just make sure you do it in accordance with the law. If your tenant is unable to pay rent and believes they’re protected by a moratorium, you’ll want to ask an attorney about the law and your legal options.
This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.