Last Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) released an updated memo permitting landlords to begin the eviction process and relieving their responsibility to inform tenants about their rights as renters.
The move comes with the expiration of several eviction bans across various states and the absence of another round of federal stimulus, putting millions of renters around the country in jeopardy of losing their homes during the pandemic.
According to Urban Institute senior fellow Solomon Green, “While purporting to clarify the order, the guidance issued on Friday complicates it. These late additions to the original order seem designed to allow landlords to intimidate tenants into leaving sooner.”
At the start of August, President Trump ordered several federal agencies to allocate funding for programs designed to assist struggling renters. The CDC issued an eviction moratorium extending through the end of 2020; however, the latest notice creates many loopholes that allow landlords to coerce renters out of their homes before the December 31 expiration date.
For example, the memo states the eviction ban is not “intended to prevent landlords from starting eviction proceedings, provided that the actual eviction of a covered person for non-payment of rent does NOT take place during the period of the Order.”
Additionally, the CDC and DOJ assert that “landlords are not required to make their tenants aware of” the order or the CDC application that tenants must complete to become eligible for protection.
The ambiguity contributes to an order which many experts like Rajeh Saadeh believed was already ineffectual. Saadeh, who specializes in real estate law at Law Offices of Rajeh A. Saadeh, remarked, “The president’s order to suspend evictions does not apply universally. First and foremost, the tenants had to have used ‘best efforts’ to obtain any and all government rental assistance.”
In addition, there are further requirements tenants must fulfill as well, including an income threshold of less than $99,000 for individuals or $198,000 for couples, and the risk of homelessness if they lose their home. Moreover, renters who file inaccurate declaration forms — whether intentionally or by mistake — could incur legal repercussions like fines or jail time.
Besides that, the current moratorium does not extend protection for renters who break the law, jeopardize other tenants’ health and safety, or damage property. But the crux of the issue, experts contend, is the need for additional stimulus money — not only for renters, but also for landlords who rely on rent to afford their mortgages.
Daryl Fairweather, the chief economist at real estate listing platform Redfin, observed, “While the eviction moratorium was a compassionate response to this unprecedented public health emergency and recession, it has created a domino effect for the entire housing market.”
“Though they may be empathetic to tenants who have lost their jobs and can’t make rent, landlords are in a position where they can’t pay their mortgages and may have to request forbearance,” he added.
Even though the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) allocated grants worth nearly $2 billion, primarily in communities with a higher risk of evictions, most of the funding has depleted. Negotiations remained deadlocked for months, and President Trump recently ordered Republicans to end talks until the end of the election.
According to Green, “The solution isn’t to sow more confusion or allow landlords to threaten evictions that courts can’t lawfully enforce. Rather, we need the federal government to step up to provide income supports and rent relief to ensure renters can stay stably housed and landlords can keep paying their bills during and after the pandemic.”
- Singh, Dhara. “Landlords Can Start the Eviction Process despite Moratorium, Government Says.” Yahoo! Finance, Yahoo!, 12 Oct. 2020, finance.yahoo.com/news/landlords-can-start-the-eviction-process-despite-moratorium-government-says-210558243.html.