On March 29, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) extended the September 4 CDC Order, which temporarily halted certain residential nonpayment evictions, through June 30, 2021. It was previously set to expire on March 31. In addition, on March 29, the Federal Trade Commission and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau issued a joint statement on preventing illegal evictions.
CDC’s March 29 Extension Order
Specifically, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky signed a 17-page Order extending the September 4 CDC Order until June 30. Therein, Director Walensky explained:
[D]espite higher rates of vaccine coverage, the simultaneous roll-back of community mitigation efforts may continue to expose vulnerable populations, such as those targeted in this Order, to higher-than-average COVID-19 rates. . . This 90-day extension will allow the assessment of natural changes to COVID-19 incidence, influence of new variants, and the expansion of COVId-19 vaccine coverage to determine if there is a continued need for a national eviction moratorium.
In addition to the extension, the March 29 Order also implements several more minor modifications to the September 4 CDC Order. Landlords should be aware of these modified or new provisions of the Order.
A signed Declaration Form submitted under a previous order remains valid, and the covered person does not need to submit a new declaration under this Order.
While the Order does not prohibit evictions for engaging in criminal activity, covered persons may not be evicted on the sole basis that they are alleged to have committed the crime of trespass (or similar state-law offense) where the underlying activity is a covered person remaining in a residential property despite nonpayment of rent.
Individuals who are confirmed to have, who have been exposed to, or who might have COVID-19 and take reasonable precautions not to spread the disease should not be evicted on grounds that they pose a health or safety threat to other residents.
A new section to the CDC Order, entitled “Declaration Forms,” includes the following new language:
Tenants are not obligated to use the CDC Hardship Declaration Form. Instead, tenants may use any written document in place of the Declaration Form so long as it includes the required information/elements as in the Declaration Form, is signed, and includes a perjury statement.
This Order does not preclude a landlord from challenging the truthfulness of a tenant’s declaration in court, as permitted under state or local law.
In certain circumstances, such as individuals filing a joint tax return, it may be appropriate for one member of the residence to provide an executed Declaration on behalf of the other adult residents who are party to the lease, rental agreement, or housing contract.
The declaration may be signed and transmitted either electronically or by hard copy.
Details on the CDC’s September 4 Order, the CDC’s previously issued non-binding guidance in the form of a series of FAQs, and previous extensions of the CDC Order, are listed below in the Related Resources section.
Not an Automatic Stay of All Evictions
As a reminder, the CDC Order, now extended through June 30, is not an automatic stay of all evictions and does not relieve any tenant of paying rent. Instead, the CDC Order allows certain tenants to invoke the protections of the CDC Order in regard to nonpayment evictions if they properly submit a CDC Hardship Declaration or like form. When the Order’s protections are properly invoked by a covered tenant, the tenant cannot be evicted and removed from their leased premises until after the expiration of the CDC Order, which is now June 30, 2021.
Iowa Supreme Court’s Prior Implementation Orders:
Importantly, the Iowa Supreme Court has previously entered Implementation Orders setting forth how Iowa courts should implement the CDC Order. More details are covered in prior blog posts.
If the Iowa Supreme Court issues a revised Implementation Order in light of the CDC’s March 29 Order, we will provide an update.
Status of Nationwide Legal Challenges
Legal challenges to the CDC Order continue across the nation, but at this point, the CDC Order remains in effect. In some instances, the federal courts which have heard these challenges have upheld the CDC Order. And in the instance of the Texas court that struck down the CDC Order, the DOJ and CDC have appealed that ruling but the CDC Order remains in effect, as discussed in my March 1 blog post (page 3).
Landlords with questions about nonpaying renters or how to proceed in the midst of numerous federal and state programs and guidelines should contact an experienced landlord/tenant attorney to discuss their specific situation.
All of our articles about eviction moratoria and the impact on landlords are available in this PDF.