A national eviction moratorium is back in effect, this time with far broader protections than the now-defunct eviction ban. While the previous law only covered certain types of properties, the new moratorium effectively protects everyone living in one of the nation’s 43 million rental households, regardless of where they reside.
But the new ban on evictions, which went into effect Sept. 1 and is set to expire Dec. 31, didn’t come from Congress or the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Instead, it was issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, using authority granted to the federal government in a 1944 public health law. To that end, the stated purpose of the order is to keep people out of homeless shelters or other crowded living conditions that could worsen the spread of.
Unlike previous federal measures, the CDC’s order requires tenants who fall behind on rent to submit a declaration to their landlord that states they’ve lost income due to the coronavirus pandemic and have made an effort to look for financial assistance, as well as a few other conditions.
We’ll dig into this new eviction moratorium to unpack who is covered, what might not be covered and what you need to do now if you’re worried about getting evicted. Plus we’ll take a look at what other resources and options are available to help you stay in your home. We update this story frequently.
What the new eviction ban does (and doesn’t) do
The CDC’s new order halts evictions across the US for anyone who has lost income due to the coronavirus pandemic and has fallen behind on rent. It doesn’t prohibit late fees, nor does it let tenants off the hook for back rent they owe. It also doesn’t establish any kind of financial fund to help renters get caught up — a safeguard some have say is critical to preventing a massive wave of evictions when the ban lifts.
The order only halts evictions for not paying rent. Lease violations for other infractions — criminal conduct, becoming a nuisance, etc. — are still enforceable with eviction. And it only protects renters earning less than $99,000 per year ($198,000 for joint filers). Finally, renters must print and sign an affidavit declaring their eligibility for protections (keep reading for more details on those requirements).
Here’s what you have to declare to qualify for protection
The order requires renters facing eviction to meet five requirements, which they must declare, under penalty of perjury, by copying, signing and delivering an affidavit to their landlord. The full text of the affidavit is appended at the bottom of the CDC’s order, but the five qualifications are, in brief:
- You’ve used “best efforts” to look for financial assistance.
- You don’t expect to earn more than $99,000 in 2020 (or no more than $198,000 if filing jointly).
- You can’t pay your full rent amount because of lost income or “extraordinary” medical expenses.
- You’ve tried to pay as much of your rent in as timely a manner as you can.
- If evicted, you would likely become homeless and have to live in a shelter or some other crowded place.
It’s not yet entirely clear what happens if your landlord chooses to challenge or deny your declaration. The New York Times spoke to both legal experts and government officials who helped draft the order, and they suggest it could be up to a housing court to decide whether you qualify or not. If your landlord challenges your request, they recommend providing “‘reasonable’ specifics to prove your eligibility.” That could include bank statements and other documents.
CDC’s order doesn’t change state laws
Any state-level eviction bans still in effect will remain in place as they are as broad or broader than that established by the CDC. To help you find out the status of eviction protection in your state, legal services site Nolo.com maintains an updated list of state eviction provisions.
Ask your landlord for a reduction or extension
In almost all instances it’s probably best to work out an arrangement with your landlord or leasing agency, if at all possible. Although some landlords have reportedly reacted to the pandemic by putting even more pressure on tenants to pay up, other landlords have risen to the occasion, some going so far as to stop collecting rent payments for a period of time.
It may be worth approaching your landlord to see if you can pay less rent in the coming months, or spread payments for the next couple of months’ rent out over the next year. Just be wary of landlords who make excessive demands. For example, some have asked tenants to turn over their $1,200 stimulus check or any money received from charity as a condition for not filing an eviction order. Don’t agree to unreasonable conditions or terms you won’t be able to meet, especially if your city or state has enacted protections against such arrangements.
What you can do if you’re facing financial hardship right now
If you’re in need of immediate shelter or emergency housing, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development maintains a state-by-state list of housing organizations in your area. Select your state from the drop-down menu for a list of resources near you.
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, many states and cities have expanded their available financial assistance for those who are struggling to pay rent. To see what programs might be available near you, select your state on this interactive map maintained by the National Low Income Housing Association.
Nonprofit 211.org connects those in need of help with essential community services in their area and has a specific portal for pandemic assistance. If you’re having trouble with your food budget or paying your housing bills, you can use 211.org’s online search tool or dial 211 on your phone to talk to someone who can try to help.
JustShelter.org is a nonprofit that puts tenants facing eviction in touch with local organizations that can help them to remain in their homes or, in worst-case scenarios, find emergency housing.
The online legal services chatbot at DoNotPay.com has athat it says will identify which of the laws, ordinances and measures covering rent and evictions apply to you based on your location.
If you’re seriously delinquent or know you will be soon, you may want to consult a lawyer to better understand how laws in your area apply to your situation. Legal Aid provides attorneys free of charge to qualified clients who need help with civil matters such as evictions. You can locate the nearest Legal Aid office using this search tool.
Finally, if you can no longer afford rent on your current home, relocation might be an option. Average rental prices have declined across the US since February, according to an August report by Zillow. Apps like Zillow, Trulia and Zumper can help you find something more affordable. Just be aware that you may still be held responsible for any back rent you currently owe as well as any rent that accrues between now and the end of your lease (if you have one), whether or not you vacate.