The Center for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a National temporary halt in eviction to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 effective September 4, 2020. The CDC action stops evictions related to nonpayment of rent until 2021. Further, hotels cannot evict guests for nonpayment if the guest is considered a permanent resident under state or local laws, and they have provided the hotel with a sworn declaration stating that they are unable to pay until next year due to financial hardship.
Residents of HUD-assisted and FHA-insured properties are not required to complete the declaration form, but they will not have the CDC eviction protections without it. For properties with multiple tenants, a separate declaration form will be required for every adult. Once completed, the declaration prevents you from being evicted or removed from your rental through December 31, 2020.
The CDC has also made it clear that residents are still required to abide by all other terms of their leases. Failure to comply may result in eviction for another reason.
The CDC has published the declaration itself, and it states that signatories are certifying under penalty of perjury and that the declaration counts as sworn testimony. If an individual were to lie, mislead, or omit any important information, they could be prosecuted, fined, or they can receive jail time.
Those who sign the declaration are attesting to several conditions, including the following:
- That they have explored all of their options for receiving government assistance for rent or housing payments.
- That they either expect to earn no more than $99,000 in annual income during 2020 (or $198,000 if they file jointly) or that they were not required to report any income in 2019 to the IRS and did not receive a stimulus check from the CARES Act as a result.
- That they are unable to pay the full amount due for rent-related to a substantial loss of household income. This loss of income can be the result of a loss of hours, lay-offs, or extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses (defined as unreimbursed medical expenses that exceed 7.5% of one’s adjusted gross income for the year).
- That they are making their best effort to make partial payments that are as close to the full payment as possible, taking into account other expenses.
- That eviction would likely result in homelessness for the individual or family.
- That they understand that they must still pay rent or make a housing payment and comply with other obligations of their lease. And further, that they understand that fees, penalties, or interest for not paying rent may still be charged and collected.
- That they understand that the temporary halt on the eviction will end on December 31, 2020.
Housing providers may require payment in full for all of the payments not made prior to and during the eviction moratorium. A failure to pay may cause the person to be subject to eviction after December 31, 2020.
While this declaration may come as a relief to individuals who are in immediate danger of being evicted, there is concern that it may be overturned. A landlord in Virginia has already filed a lawsuit seeking a temporary restraining order against the CDC order. In addition to legal challenges, there is also criticism that the moratorium may not truly help these at-risk individuals and families since it does not include any rental assistance or forgiveness.
The confusion between conflicting housing payment options, assistance, and laws has presented a ton of instability across the rental industry. Conflicting state and local moratoriums are also adding to the confusion. And the CDC declaration is different from other moratoriums in that it requires action to be initiated by the tenant. They must complete the form and submit it to their landlord. Although, it should be noted that HUD and other federal agencies are encouraging property owners to inform their residents of the eviction protections offered by completing the declaration.
Ultimately, all of this confusion has put renters in a very precarious position, especially if they are behind in rent or are facing a potential eviction. Though residents can sign the declaration on their own, they may benefit from contacting an attorney. The declaration is a legal document, and an experienced attorney can advise on how it fits in with other state or local regulations or laws related to eviction during the pandemic.
And while many individuals who are at risk of eviction may fear legal fees, every state has at least one agency that provides free legal help to individuals who are classified as low-income. There are also many low-cost options, and discussing your options may be the best way to protect your family during this period of uncertainty.
While the suspension is only in place until the end of 2020, if you are concerned about your property, have further questions or feel like you may be in need of legal representation, discuss your rights with a Philadelphia Real Estate Lawyer today.