Since March 2020, the US has been severely affected economically. Increasing unemployment rates have left many people unable to cover their living costs, including rent.
If eviction was a sensitive topic before, it has become a major concern to Americans since the onset of the pandemic. Millions of people struggled to keep up with expenses during repeated pandemic shutdowns. The less affluent have suffered the most.
The eviction moratorium was their only hope of not being evicted from their homes at such an economically uncertain time.
The Establishment of the Eviction Moratorium
The emergence of the pandemic strongly marked the US economy, causing many people to lose their jobs and fall behind in paying taxes. One of the most affected groups is tenants that rent their homes.
Lost wages and lost jobs left millions of people unable to cover rental costs, bringing them one step closer to the worst-case scenario in a tenancy – an eviction.
Insight: According to a Census Bureau survey, around 10 million tenants were behind on their rent. They were at risk of eviction in the middle of January, and 16 million tenants had minimal confidence they could pay rent in February.
In the context of the pandemic, a wave of evictions would only force people to move into their family's houses or homeless shelters. This would have put the shelters past capacity in no time.
This would have been dangerous when a deadly virus posed a major threat, and national measures imposed social distancing, which could have led to an increase in Covid-19 cases among homeless people.
This has become a priority concern of the authorities, so they have instituted the eviction moratorium as a critical health measure.
The federal nationwide eviction moratorium had been in place since March 2020, with the primary goal of providing relief for those who could not afford to pay rent during the pandemic in a shutdown economy.
Initially, the moratorium was established as part of the CARES Act, and the CDC would later take over after the expiration of the CARES Moratorium Act.
The CDC issued its own moratorium, which has been extended numerous times to the present day.
How Does it Work?
To receive protection from the eviction moratorium, tenants must present the CDC's declaration form to their landlord and must meet specific qualifications:
- Tenants should not have an income of more than $ 99,000 in 2021 (or $198,000 if married and filed a joint tax return)
- They must have tried to obtain public assistance beforehand
- They should have been experiencing a "substantial" loss of household income because of a layoff or reduced work hours, or high medical expenses
- They have been making their best effort to pay partial rent as close to the full amount
- They would become homeless in case of eviction or would have to move in with a friend/family member
Related fact: Some states and local governments have implemented new or extended eviction moratoriums called 'bridge' programs. Most of these moratoriums prevent one or more of the following eviction procedures: eviction notice, eviction court filings, eviction hearings, eviction orders, judgments, and writs of execution, eviction (removal) orders, state Eviction Moratoriums.
Therefore, the eviction moratorium bars a tenant from being evicted during a specific time frame without first obtaining a court order.
The primary purpose is to allow them to become financially stable again, but this doesn't mean the rent is definitively exempt from payment.
Even if the tenant is approved by this moratorium and receives protection against evictions, they remain indebted to the payment of the past rents. When the moratorium ends, every tenant who was behind on rent will be required by law to pay the rent due.
Moreover, tenants are protected from evictions only in unpaid rent, but not for other reasons. The eviction moratorium does not relieve tenants to comply with any other obligation that they may have under a tenancy, lease, or similar contract, no matter the state they live in.
The exceptions to the moratorium are evictions due to criminal activity and those necessary for health & safety reasons. Residents involved in an illegal and unlawful activity or endangering other residents may still be evicted.
The Current State of the Eviction Moratorium
The CDC has extended the nationwide evacuation moratorium multiple times.
On June 30, 2021, the extensions were followed by others on June 24, 2021, with the last one expiring on July 31.
Almost 11 months after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention introduced the moratorium for the first.
The White House called on state and local governments to give their support and share their funding mechanisms so that landlords and tenants avoid a mass of evictions after the last moratorium at the end of July had expired.
As a result, the CDC issued yet another moratorium extension until October 3, 2021.
This extension is no different from the moratoriums in the past. They are protecting the tenants from eviction only for non-payment of rent, being unforgiving for the debt.
It is also, offering protection against receiving an eviction notice. The only difference is that this moratorium applies only in areas with substantial or high transmission of COVID-19.
This ultimate moratorium aims to keep tenants safely and stably housed and give state and local governments more time to distribute emergency rental assistance (ERA) to needy households.
Insight: The Emergency Rental Assistance Program gives supplementary relief for tenants beyond the moratorium on evictions by providing $25 billion in emergency tenant assistance. This can be used for up to 12 months for delayed rent and utility fees from the beginning of the pandemic or for future bills.
Therefore, tenants have the chance to obtain assistance from relief organizations selected by state and local officials, who will pay the funds directly to their landlords.
The process differs depending on the state but will prioritize relief for households with incomes below 50% of AMI with at least one member unemployed for more than 90 days.
How Does it Affect Landlords?
Even if the last extension of the moratorium was good news for tenants, it is tough for some landlords—especially mom-and-pop rental owners.
Tips for Landlords: Landlords can also benefit from the eviction moratorium. They are eligible to get up to 80% of a tenant's unpaid rent from the state, with the condition to waive the remaining 20% of unpaid rent.
Since the establishment of the eviction moratorium, many landlords have lost profits due to rent. For those whose rental property is their only source of income, the loss of rent is a serious concern.
According to The National Low Income Housing Coalition, by the end of December 2020, tenants owed landlords $30– $70 billion in back rent, and debt has risen even further since the start of 2021.
Related fact: More than 6 million renter households are behind on rent at this moment in the US.
With more money at a loss than profit, many landlords are going through a financially unstable time. A less emphasized aspect since the establishment of the moratorium is that landlords also have taxes to pay.
With huge debt left behind by tenants and no certainty about the recovery of this money, landlords were subjected to several risks that could leave them without their property, including:
- Inability to Pay Mortgages – When a landlord has a tenant who is unable to pay, they cannot pay their mortgage payments.
- Difficulty covering property taxes - When tenants skip payments on their rent, it deprives landlords of money that could help them pay their property taxes.
- Deprioritized maintenance fees – During certain times, many landlords have been able to maintain their properties. Now, some landlords are having to defer costs and leave their properties unmaintained.
However, given that most landlords do not want to evict their tenants to have to fill them again may be glad to receive some part of the rent rather than none of it. The rent relief organizations seem to be the only promising solution for them in the near future.
How Can Landlords Handle an Eviction Legally?
It's next to impossible to evict a residential tenant under the eviction moratorium at the moment.
A landlord that breaks the eviction moratorium stipulations may receive a fine of up to $100,000, one year in jail, or both. If the violation results in a death, the penalty can reach up to $250,000.
An organization breaking the law may receive a fine of up to $200,000 per violation (if the violation results in a death, the penalty can be up to $500,000 per violation).
Even when the federal ban on evictions ends, landlords won't be able to automatically evict tenants who fail to pay rent because every eviction must occur with a court order - which was the typical process even before the moratorium.
Before the pandemic, a landlord could evict a tenant for non-payment of rent, not paying utilities, non-compliance with health and safety regulations, and more.
The landlords first had to send tenants a notice that they did not comply with the lease agreement. After that, the tenant had a specific number of days to comply with the lease or vacate the property with all their belongings.
For the current circumstance, the eviction moratorium provides only five cases when a landlord may evict a covered tenant. Therefore, the eviction can happen if the tenant is:
- involved in criminal activity on the premises
- risking the health and safety of other residents
- damaging or posing a critical risk of damage to property
- disrupting a health and safety law
- violating a term of the lease, other than non-payment of rent or fees
The only thing landlords can do during this period is ask the judge if their tenants meet the requirements of the CDC. If the tenant is found liable for violating the lease or other reasons besides the non-payment of the rent, the eviction can be carried out.
Moreover, the moratorium can pause an eviction already underway. Suppose a landlord had already filed an eviction for their tenants before the moratorium was established. In that case, it could be temporarily suspended. The eviction process will be continued only after evictions will no longer be banned in that area.
All Things Considered
It can be said that the eviction moratorium is quite unfair for landlords, especially for those who own small real-estate businesses. They must survive challenging financial instability and continue to provide their services even if their profit was significantly affected.
At the same time, the current conditions call for a middle ground to be reached. Without the moratorium, 6 million households could have been potentially evicted. This would have been a national crisis.
Under the moratorium, landlords cannot evict, leaving them with no choice but to continue to carry out their activity without the rental payment from the tenants.
Our Resources for Landlords
If you are a landlord that is weathering through the current situation, then check out our resource about the responsibilities of landlords; it covers what your responsibility is and what your tenant is responsible for.
Despite the current moratorium, when the eviction ban is lifted, and you find yourself having to write your first notice to vacate, then check out our FAQ on that.
If you are having a hard time managing your property and need outside help, check out our list of the best property management companies in each state.
Keep in Mind: Landlord insurance is critical during these times. If you aren't covered with a policy, then it's in your best interest to get landlord insurance to mitigate losses from any unforeseen circumstances. Get a free quote in a few minutes and get covered within a day!
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