CDC Announces Temporary Halt in Residential Evictions

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On September 1, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an order halting residential evictions for non-payment through December 31, 2020. The order came following President Trump’s August 8 executive order instructing the Department of Health and Human Services and the CDC to consider if halting residential evictions was necessary.

In the order, the CDC explains that halting residential evictions will allow more people to self-isolate due to COVID-19, saying a moratorium will “allow state and local authorities to more easily implement stay-at-home and social distancing directives to mitigate the community spread of COVID-19.” The order continues, “Housing stability helps protect public health because homelessness increases the likelihood of individuals moving into congregate settings, such as homeless shelters, which then puts individuals at higher risk to COVID-19.”

Notably, evictions for reasons other than non-payment will still be allowed.

The CDC’s order does not waive payment obligations or prohibit fees, penalties, or interest for failure to pay. In other words, rent is not cancelled or forgiven. It also does not provide funds for rent relief. (The CDC does not have the authority to do this.) Further, the order does not address foreclosures for homeowners.

The temporary halt has met with mixed reactions from housing advocates and landlords. Many housing advocates are very happy to see the ban on evictions while landlords argue the ban does not give them any way to recoup lost rent, NPR reported.

“My reaction is a feeling of tremendous relief,” said Diane Yentel, CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. “It’s a pretty extraordinary and bold and unprecedented measure that the White House is taking that will save lives and prevent tens of millions of people from losing their homes in the middle of a pandemic.”

That said, Yentel recognizes the shortfalls, saying, “While an eviction moratorium is an essential step, it is a half-measure that extends a financial cliff for renters to fall off of when the moratorium expires and back rent is owed.”

Doug Bibby, president of the National Multifamily Housing Council, noted, “An eviction moratorium will ultimately harm the very people it aims to help by making it impossible for housing providers, particularly small owners, to meet their financial obligations and continue to provide shelter to their residents.”

To be covered under the order, you must provide your landlord with a signed declaration (page 33) under penalty of perjury that you:

  1. Have made efforts to receive available government assistance for rent or housing;
  2. Do not make more than $99,000 a year ($198,000 if filing a joint tax return) or qualified for a stimulus payment under the CARES Act;
  3. Are unable to pay the full rent or housing payment because of a “substantial loss of household income, loss of compensable hours of work or wages, a lay-off, or extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses”;
  4. Are making efforts to make timely partial payments; and
  5. Have no other available housing options besides homelessness or moving into a close-quarters shared living space.

Overall, the lack of federal funding for rent relief has been met with widespread criticism.

Congress had halted evictions for tenants who receive federal assistance or live in rental properties with federally backed financing, but this expired in July. Additionally, some state and local governments implemented eviction moratoriums and rent freezes, though many of these have expired.