On September 1 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) issued a nationwide temporary halt on all residential evictions through December 31, 2020. With the July 24, 2020 expiration of the prior moratorium established under the CARES Act, the CDC based the new moratorium on the need to protect public health and the likely increase in the spread of COVID-19 if mass evictions take place.
Under the CDC’s Order, “a landlord, owner of a residential property, or other person with a legal right to pursue eviction or possessory action, shall not evict any covered person from any residential property in any jurisdiction to which this Order applies ***.” Tenants facing the prospect of eviction and wishing to invoke the moratorium must provide the landlord with a signed declaration containing specific sworn statements including:
- The tenant has used best efforts to obtain all available government assistance for rent or housing.
- The tenant expects to earn no more than $99,000 in calendar year 2020 (or $198,000 for joint tax filers).
- The tenant is unable to pay the full rent due to substantial loss of household income.
- The tenant is using best efforts to make partial rent payments.
- Eviction would likely render the tenant homeless.
While the CDC’s Order broadly defines what constitutes a residential property and is intended to halt all efforts to remove a tenant for failing to pay rent until the end of the year, it does not relieve the obligation to pay rent or to comply with any other lease obligations. Thus, the Order does not preclude evictions based on criminal conduct, health and safety concerns of other residents, violations of applicable health ordinances and building codes, or the violation of other lease obligations that do not include the timely payment of rent.
Landlords need to be mindful of the CDC Order and seek legal counsel if contemplating eviction between now and the end of the year. Penalties for not complying are steep for an individual and include (i) fines of up to $100,000 if the violation does not result in a death, (ii) fines of up to $250,000 if the violation results in a death, (iii) and can in addition include one year in jail. Penalties for an organization violating the CDC Order similarly are based on whether the violation resulted in a death and can climb as high as $500,000 per violation.
For questions for more information, please contact Member Blake R. Gerney at firstname.lastname@example.org, or your primary BMD attorney.