In the most sweeping act to date to protect renters during the COVID-19 pandemic and current recession, on Tuesday the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced a halt to evictions over nonpayment of rent nationwide that lasts through Dec. 31.
With some income eligibility requirements, the order covers the 43 million renters across the U.S., and is aimed at helping renters in localities where city or state eviction moratoriums do not provide greater protections.
While the eviction moratorium protects renters who may be struggling to make rent during the pandemic, it does not establish rental payment assistance to cover landlord expenses nor does it cancel rent — monthly payments that go unpaid can lead to an eviction as soon as the moratorium ends at the end of the year.
The order is expected to publish Friday, Sept. 4, and to invoke the protection provided in the order, tenants must provide their landlord with a signed copy of the declaration included in the order.
[READ: Strategies to Fight Eviction.]
Here’s what you need to know about the CDC’s eviction moratorium order:
Who Does It Protect?
All renters who earn $99,000 or less, and joint filers earning $198,000 or less, are protected from eviction due to nonpayment of rent under the new order.
This is the widest-spread eviction moratorium yet in the U.S. during the pandemic, as the eviction moratorium that applied to federally funded housing and rental properties with federally backed mortgages established under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, expired in July.
The order establishes additional criteria in several points:
— The tenant has tried to obtain government rental assistance.
— The tenant meets the income eligibility requirements, with an expected income in 2020 less than $99,000, or $198,000 for joint filers, received a stimulus check under the CARES Act or was not required to report any income to the IRS in 2019.
— The tenant is currently unable to pay rent in full due to loss of income or heightened medical expenses.
— The tenant is trying to make timely partial payments, using his or her “best efforts.”
— The tenant has no other housing options without posing a health risk, including living in close quarters with others or resorting to homelessness.
How Are They Protected?
The order stops evictions for nonpayment of rent, as long as the tenant meets the criteria above and gives his or her landlord a signed declaration stating as much. The official declaration is attached to the end of the order.
However, if you violate the lease in another way, break the law on your rental property or threaten the health and safety of other residents, you can still be evicted, according to the order. This does not supersede local moratoriums, however, so if a state or city eviction moratorium prevents all evictions for any reason, the federal order does not reestablish evictions for reasons beyond nonpayment of rent.
For all involved, the rent remains due. “There’s no additional resources that are provided under this order to help people actually pay their rent, and it is unrealistic to think that people with low incomes could magically pay a lump sum of back rent starting Jan. 1,” says Peggy Bailey, vice president for housing policy for the Center on Budget and Policy and Priorities.
Who Is Not Protected?
If you earn more than $99,000 per year, or as a joint-filing couple earn more than $198,000 per year, you are not able to take advantage of the eviction moratorium.
While many tenants will fall under the protection of the order, landlords do not receive any relief under the measure and may see fewer rent payments while the moratorium is in place. Doug Bibby, president of the National Multifamily Housing Council, explains that the loss of rental income, for many landlords, means being unable to make mortgage payments on the rental property, pay property taxes, pay employees or contractors who work in the rental business and pay vendors and other local businesses who maintain or update the property.
“I can’t paint too bleak a picture of what it would look like if you just had this eviction moratorium go forward with no benefit to the landlords to offset the loss of income,” Bibby says.
The forbearance on foreclosures under the CARES Act, which delayed foreclosure activity in the same way a moratorium delays eviction proceedings, expired in July. Lenders are widely being reported as accommodating to property owners who request a forbearance or modification during the pandemic, but Bibby stresses that a mortgage is just one-third of the total cost to operate a rental property.
How Do You Take Advantage of the Eviction Moratorium?
If you are a renter struggling to pay rent, you may invoke the order by providing your landlord with a signed copy of the declaration.
The declaration states that the tenant currently faces the hardships established in the order and is seeking protection from eviction as a result. By signing the declaration, the tenant acknowledges that rent is still due, he or she must still follow the parameters of the lease agreement and that at the end of the moratorium, any rent that went unpaid is due in full.
By signing it, however, you are also attesting to attempts to receive government aid and promising to pay what you can in rent continuously, among the other requirements, under penalty of perjury. “It is important for renters that if they can pay their rent, they do,” Bailey says.
Additionally, it’s important to remember that the rent is still due under the eviction moratorium. What you don’t pay now will continue to pile up and be due at the end of the moratorium, with the possibility of eviction if it is not paid.
What Additional Support Do Renters and Landlords Need?
Housing experts stress that additional steps must be taken in the form of rental assistance, funding to provide individuals experiencing homelessness with safe housing options and to further prevent foreclosures and additional economic issues that can radiate outward from a rent crisis.
“We need Congress and the administration to pass a COVID relief package that includes money to help people pay their rent,” Bailey says. “That package also needs to help people who are currently experiencing homelessness and help service providers continue to keep them safe and keep them temporarily housed in non-congregate settings.”
Further steps are needed to avoid a crisis in one sector of the housing industry that creates waves of affordability issues elsewhere, from unemployment benefits to rent to mortgage payments to property taxes and so on. “What we’re looking for is balance in anything that could go forward,” Bibby says.
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What You Need to Know About the CDC’s Eviction Moratorium originally appeared on usnews.com