If you own rental property, you’ve likely heard about the CDC’s eviction moratorium.
But what does it mean for landlords?
If you are looking for a one-stop FAQ article covering the COVID-19 eviction bans, you’re in the right place. In this article, we are going to cover everything landlords need to know about the CDC order.
What Is the Federal Eviction Moratorium?
The coronavirus pandemic has caused massive financial difficulty across the US, leaving both renters and homeowners unable to make housing payments. As a result, the CDC issued an order to help protect renters at risk of homelessness and to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The order, enacted on September 4th, 2020, prohibits landlords from evicting tenants who are unable to make rent payments due to financial hardship caused by the pandemic. As it stands, the order is set to expire on December 31st.
While there is a strong likelihood that Biden will work to have the eviction moratorium extended, there will be a small gap between its expiration and when he takes office in 2021. Unless Trump passes an extension before the end of the month, tenants could be subject to eviction starting January 1st.
Who Is Covered By the Eviction Moratorium?
Most importantly, landlords who currently have a tenant not paying rent should know that not every tenant qualifies for the protections offered by the eviction moratorium.
In order to be considered “covered” by the eviction moratorium, tenants must certify that:
- They have tried all means to obtain government assistance to cover rent.
- They either 1) expect to make less than $99,000 in 2020 (or less than $198,000 for joint filers), 2) were not required to file taxes in 2019, or 3) received a stimulus check from the government.
- They cannot make a full rent payment due to loss of income or work hours, a lay-off, or unforeseen medical expenses.
- They would likely become homeless as a result of eviction, or they would be forced into a closely shared space as a result of the eviction.
Are Landlords Required to Give Tenants Notice of the Moratorium?
Landlords are not required to inform their tenants of the eviction moratorium. This is an important protection that reduces the possibility of tenants choosing not to make payments because they mistakenly believe they don’t have to.
Do Renters Still Have to Pay?
It is important to understand that the eviction moratorium does not excuse or pardon tenants’ rent payments in any way. Tenants are still fully responsible to make their payments when they have the available income to do so. Tenants are required to make partial payments in the greatest amount possible, considering other living expenses they may have.
Do Landlords Have the Right to Dispute?
If you suspect that your tenant is not covered under the eviction moratorium, and they attempt to use its protections, you can dispute the issue in court.
Does the Moratorium Prevent All Evictions?
Possibly the most important aspect of the eviction moratorium for landlords to understand is that it does not prevent all evictions. This means that if your tenant is conducting illegal activity or is harassing other tenants, for example, you may still evict them for these reasons. The only case in which you may not evict a tenant is for nonpayment of rent, if and only if, that tenant is a person covered by the moratorium.
What are tenants’ rights under the eviction moratorium?
Do Tenants Have Protection From Eviction Due to NonPayment?
Tenants are protected from being evicted for nonpayment of rent if they are a covered person under the moratorium until December 31st.
Is Protection Extended to Tenants Who Are Unaware of the Moratorium?
Though landlords do not have to notify tenants of the eviction moratorium, a tenant’s ignorance of the eviction order does not grant landlords the right to evict them.
Are Tenants Covered By the Moratorium Before a Court Ruling?
If a landlord suspects a tenant is not covered by the eviction moratorium, the tenant is considered to be covered until a court deems otherwise.
What If a Tenant Can’t Access the CDC Document?
While the CDC provides a document for tenants to print, sign, and provide to their landlord, it is not required that they use this document. This protection safeguards individuals with limited access to a computer, printer, etc.
As long as the required information (the same information that is on the CDC form) is listed on the paper and it is signed, landlords must accept any such document a tenant provides.
Are Landlords Allowed to Charge Late Fees During COVID-19?
The answer is: It depends.
If you are considering charging your tenants’ late fees, there are a few things to keep in mind. If you have a good tenant who normally pays on time each month, charging them late fees due to an unprecedented crisis might not be in your best interest. Truly excellent tenants are hard to come by, and this kind of behavior could deter them from continuing to rent from you in the future.
On the legal side of things, if you want to charge late fees, make sure you are in the clear to do so. First of all, ask yourself what is in the lease agreement. Does it contain language allowing you to charge additional fees or raise the rent? Next, check that your local laws permit it, both in regular times and during the pandemic. Lastly, check that your state has not banned late fees during the pandemic.
When Can Landlords Start Evicting Tenants?
According to the CDC order, landlords can begin the eviction process at any time, even during the eviction moratorium.
Landlords may initiate the process of eviction at any point unless state laws prohibit it. However, tenants will not be forced to move out until the moratorium has expired.
Does the Eviction Moratorium Vary By State?
Certain states have adopted their own eviction laws as a result of the pandemic that are even more strict than the federal eviction moratorium.
States such as Ohio, Georgia, Arkansas, Tennessee, Idaho, North Dakota, and any other states not specified below may not have their own COVID-19 eviction laws. However, if you are a landlord, it is advisable to double-check the eviction moratorium laws for your state. Laws are constantly subject to change as the coronavirus pandemic evolves, and landlords are responsible for remaining updated and compliant with new laws as well as existing laws.
The California eviction moratorium suspends hearings on evictions. While landlords may still serve eviction notices and file claims, hearings may not be held during the time frame specified in the eviction order.
The state of Illinois leaves it up to local governments to suspend eviction hearings. If you are a landlord in Illinois, you must contact your local government to find out if you can proceed with an eviction hearing, or if it must wait until the moratorium expires.
Maryland, like the California housing market, suspends only hearings on evictions until the expiration of the moratorium. Notices may still be given and an eviction claim may be filed.
Slightly more strict on their eviction laws, Texas only allows landlords to post eviction notices. Landlords may not file a claim during the moratorium or proceed with any other eviction actions.
New York has some of the most stringent eviction moratorium laws. No phase of the eviction process is allowed, including notifying the tenant of eviction.
While the federal eviction moratorium outlines the basic rules for eviction during the pandemic, landlords are responsible for being aware of any updates to state and local laws regarding evictions.
If possible, it’s always advisable to work with good tenants to make payments on a schedule that works for both of you. Remember: being a landlord is both challenging and rewarding, and economic recovery is around the corner. With vaccines slowly but surely on the way, there’s hope for a return to normalcy in your real estate business.
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