On September 1, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an order protecting qualifying renters in the U.S. from eviction beginning September 4, through December 31, 2020. This order extends the eviction protection from the CARES Act, which expired on July 24 and only protected those living in government-funded housing. The CDC order does not protect homeowners from foreclosure due to mortgage non-payment.
Why is the eviction protection order coming from the CDC?
In his executive order, President Trump gave the CDC authority to make a decision about halting evictions in the interest of public health. The eviction moratorium is based on concerns that people evicted from their homes would turn to congregate housing, such as homeless shelters, or move in with family members. More people living in close quarters can increase the spread of COVID-19.
In short, it’s easier to social distance if everyone is in their own home. And given that around 40 million people are at risk of being evicted otherwise, the impact on public health—and on Americans’ lives—could be serious.
Chart courtesy of the Aspen Institute
Who is covered by the CDC eviction protection?
To qualify under the CDC guidelines, a renter must:
- Be unable to pay the full rent due to loss of income, loss of wages, layoff, or extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses
- Have made every effort to get any available government financial assistance
- Expect to earn no more than $99,000 in annual income in 2020, or wasn’t required to file a 2019 tax return, or received a stimulus check as part of the CARES Act
- Whenever possible, make rent payments as close to the full amount as possible
- Have no other housing options and therefore be in danger of becoming homeless or having to move into close quarters with others
Even if renters qualify under these criteria, it’s important to note that they can still be evicted for breaking any other parts of their lease agreement, such as property damage or disorderly conduct.
Will renters still owe rent if they qualify for eviction protection?
Yes. The amount a tenant usually owes will still be due to the landlord eventually, either once all rental moratoria in the area expires or when the tenant no longer meets the qualification criteria. At that point, depending on the terms of the lease agreement and the willingness of the landlord to work with their tenant, the landlord may:
- Sue to evict unless all back rent is paid immediately
- Allow a back-rent payment plan, probably in addition to the cost of normal rent
The CDC order also says that landlords have the right to charge any fees, penalties, or interest according to the terms of the lease agreement. So while the CDC eviction protection order provides much-needed temporary relief from eviction for many households, it’s just that — temporary.
What should renters do if they receive an eviction notice?
If a tenant receives an eviction notice even though they believe they qualify for eviction protection, they should:
- Make sure they meet the criteria to qualify
- Complete the form provided by the CDC for each person on the lease agreement
- Give the completed form(s) to their landlord
Who does not have eviction protection?
It’s important to understand the CDC eviction protection order won’t prevent eviction if the renter:
- Meets some, but not all, of the qualification criteria
- Violates other parts of the lease agreement that could lead to eviction
- Lives in temporary housing (like an extended stay hotel or seasonal housing)
- Is a resident of American Samoa (where there are no COVID cases)
- Is a homeowner paying a mortgage, not rent
If you’re a homeowner who can’t pay your mortgage due to the coronavirus crisis, or you own a rental property and can’t make your mortgage payments because your tenants aren’t paying rent, a good course of action is to contact your mortgage lender and ask them if they can defer your payments or accept partial payments.
What about state and local eviction protections?
State or local rental moratoria will prevail if they give more rights to renters than the CDC eviction protection order. For example, California’s new state law states that any back rent owed by tenants after the moratorium ends can’t be grounds for eviction at that time, which is an extra bit of protection not included in the CDC order. The California law also extends the moratorium to January 31, 2021, a full month later than the CDC order.
Do an internet search for eviction protection in your state, county, and city. You can also look for helpful online summaries of government protections for renters.
What to do next:
If you qualify for eviction protection, make sure you:
- Seek all possible forms of financial assistance from federal, state, and local sources
- Fill out the CDC declaration form and give it to your landlord
- Prioritize paying rent over less important bills like discretionary expenses and unsecured debt payments
- Pay as much as you can toward rent each month to reduce the amount of back rent you’ll owe
Relief from credit card payments
If you’re unable to pay both rent and credit card payments due to a financial hardship, you may want to consider debt relief. Through a debt relief program, you creditors may be willing to settle for less than you owe on some or all of your unsecured debts. To learn more, talk to a Freedom Debt Relief Certified Debt Consultant. They can either help you find out if you qualify for our debt relief program, or help you find another debt solution that could help. Get started now.
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