The US is currently under a national eviction moratorium that stops landlords from evicting tenants who don’t pay rent until at least Dec. 31, 2020. Although the previous eviction ban that was only covered certain properties, this current moratorium effectively protects everyone living in one of the nation’s roughly 43 million rental households, regardless of the kind of building they live in.
But there’s a catch. Tenants who’ve fallen behind on rent must sign a declaration form and submit it to their landlord stating they’ve lost income due to theand have made an effort to look for financial assistance, as well as a few other conditions. (This part is critical, more below.)
Some states and cities continue to have their own eviction bans on the books (). A few offer more protection than the federal eviction moratorium, but many have let their laws expire. Landlord associations have also begun challenging many of the orders preventing evictions — including the nationwide ban — but so far there have been few, if any, victories for property owners. Despite this, landlords across the country have continued to file evictions against tenants, sometimes when the tenant simply didn’t know about the required declaration.
We’ll dig into the national 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 national eviction ban does (and doesn’t) do
The current national eviction moratorium was ordered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention using a 1944 public health law intended to curb the spread of a pandemic. Because homelessness can increase the spread of COVID-19, the order halts evictions across the US for anyone who has lost income due to the pandemic and has fallen behind on rent.
The federal mandate doesn’t prohibit late fees (although), nor does it let tenants off the hook for any back rent they owe. It also doesn’t establish any kind of financial assistance fund to help renters get caught up, a safeguard some say is critical to preventing a massive wave of evictions when the ban eventually lifts. (Many cities and states, however, have set aside money to help with rent — keep reading for how to find assistance where you live.)
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 who earn less than $99,000 per year or $198,000 for joint filers. Finally, renters must print and sign an affidavit declaring their eligibility for protections (the next section breaks down those requirements).
How tenants can qualify for the eviction moratorium by signing this paperwork
The CDC’s order requires renters facing eviction to meet five requirements, which they must declare, under penalty of perjury, by copying or printing, signing and delivering an affidavit to their landlord.
You can download a copy of the affidavit here (PDF). The five qualifications are, in brief:
- Tenant has used “best efforts” to look for financial assistance.
- Tenant doesn’t expect to earn more than $99,000 in 2020 (or no more than $198,000 if filing jointly).
- Tenant can’t pay your full rent amount because of lost income or “extraordinary” medical expenses.
- Tenant tried to pay as much of your rent in as timely a manner as possible.
- If evicted, the tenant 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 a landlord chooses to challenge or deny a 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 a tenant qualifies or not. If a landlord challenges the request, they recommend the tenant provide “‘reasonable’ specifics to prove eligibility.” That could include bank statements and other documents.
What a tenant can do if they’re facing financial hardship right now
If your tenant is 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, find your state on this list of rent relief programs maintained by the National Low Income Housing Association.
The online legal services chatbot at DoNotPay.com has a that it says will identify which of the laws, ordinances and measures covering rent and evictions apply based on your location.
If your tenant is seriously delinquent or know they will be soon, they may want to consult a lawyer to better understand how laws in your area apply to their 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.
If the tenant 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 them find something more affordable. Just be aware they may still be held responsible for any back rent owed as well as any rent that accrues between now and the end of the lease (if you have one), whether or not the tenant vacates.
Consider a reduction or extension
In almost all instances it’s probably best to work out an arrangement with between the tenant and 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 working an arrangement with the tenant where they 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 making 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 offer unreasonable conditions or terms your tenant won’t be able to meet, especially if your city or state has enacted protections against such arrangements.