Temporary Halt in Residential Evictions

Chiesa Shahinian & Giantomasi PC
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On Tuesday, September 1, 2020, in an effort to prevent the further spread of COVID-19, federal officials announced an eviction ban through the end of 2020. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (the “CDC”) issued an order effective September 4, 2020 prohibiting a landlord, owner of a residential property, or other person with legal right to pursue eviction or possessory action, from evicting any covered person from any residential property in any jurisdiction to which the order applies (the “Order”).

Under the Order, a “covered person” includes any tenant, lessee, or resident of a residential property who provides to their landlord, the owner of the residential property, or other person with a legal right to pursue eviction or a possessory action, a declaration under penalty of perjury indicating that:

  1. the individual has used best efforts to obtain all available government assistance for rent or housing;

  2. the individual either (i) expects to earn no more than $99,000 in annual income for Calendar Year 2020 (or no more than $198,000 if filing a joint tax return), (ii) was not required to report any income in 2019 to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, or (iii) received an Economic Impact Payment (stimulus check) pursuant to Section 2201 of the CARES Act;

  3. the individual is unable to pay the full rent or make a full housing payment due to substantial loss of household income, loss of compensable hours of work or wages, a lay-off, or extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses;

  4. the individual is using best efforts to make timely partial payments that are as close to the full payment as the individual’s circumstances may permit, taking into account other nondiscretionary expenses; and

  5. eviction would likely render the individual homeless— or force the individual to move into and live in close quarters in a new congregate or shared living setting— because the individual has no other available housing options.

To invoke the CDC’s order, covered persons must complete the Declaration Form found on the CDC’s website (a copy of the Order and Declaration Form can be found here) and provide an executed copy to their landlord, owner of the residential property where they live, or other person who has a right to have them evicted or removed from where they live. Each adult listed on the lease, rental agreement, or housing contract should complete and provide the Declaration Form to their landlord. Executed declarations should not be returned to the Federal Government.

It is important to note, the Order does not relieve any individual of obligations to pay rent, make a housing payment, or comply with any other obligations that the individual may have under a tenancy, lease, or similar contract. Further, it does not prevent landlords from charging fees, interest, or penalties as a result of the failure to pay rent or other related payments under the terms of any lease.

Additionally, covered persons may still be evicted for reasons other than not paying rent or making a housing payment. Nothing in the Order precludes evictions based on a tenant, lessee, or resident: (1) engaging in criminal activity while on the premises; (2) threatening the health or safety of other residents; (3) damaging or posing an immediate and significant risk of damage to property; (4) violating any applicable building code, health ordinance, or similar regulation relating to health and safety; or (5) violating any other contractual obligation, other than the timely payment of rent or similar housing-related payment (including non-payment or late payment of fees, penalties, or interest).

Any person violating the Order may be subject to a fine of no more than $100,000 if the violation does not result in a death or one year in jail, or both, or a fine of no more than $250,000 if the violation results in a death or one year in jail, or both, or as otherwise provided by law. An organization violating the Order may be subject to a fine of no more than $200,000 per event if the violation does not result in a death or $500,000 per event if the violation results in a death or as otherwise provided by law. The U.S. Department of Justice may initiate court proceedings as appropriate seeking imposition of these criminal penalties.

Lastly, the Order does not apply in any state with a moratorium on residential evictions that provides the same or greater level of public-health protection. Further, the Order does not preclude State, local, territorial, and tribal authorities from imposing additional requirements that provide greater public-health protection and are more restrictive than the requirements of the Order.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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