In the most sweeping act to date to protect renters during the COVID-19 pandemic and current recession, on Tuesday the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced a halt to evictions over nonpayment of rent nationwide that lasts through Dec. 31.
With some income eligibility requirements, the order covers the 43 million renters across the U.S., and is aimed at helping renters in localities where city or state eviction moratoriums do not provide greater protections.
While the eviction moratorium protects renters who may be struggling to make rent during the pandemic, it does not establish rental payment assistance to cover landlord expenses nor does it cancel rent – monthly payments that go unpaid can lead to an eviction as soon as the moratorium ends at the end of the year.
The order is expected to publish Friday, Sept. 4, and to invoke the protection provided in the order, tenants must provide their landlord with a signed copy of the declaration included in the order.
[READ: Strategies to Fight Eviction.]
Here’s what you need to know about the CDC’s eviction moratorium order:
All renters who earn $99,000 or less, and joint filers earning $198,000 or less, are protected from eviction due to nonpayment of rent under the new order.
This is the widest-spread eviction moratorium yet in the U.S. during the pandemic, as the eviction moratorium that applied to federally funded housing and rental properties with federally backed mortgages established under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, expired in July.
The order establishes additional criteria in several points:
- The tenant has tried to obtain government rental assistance.
- The tenant meets the income eligibility requirements, with an expected income in 2020 less than $99,000, or $198,000 for joint filers, received a stimulus check under the CARES Act or was not required to report any income to the IRS in 2019.
- The tenant is currently unable to pay rent in full due to loss of income or heightened medical expenses.
- The tenant is trying to make timely partial payments, using his or her “best efforts.”
- The tenant has no other housing options without posing a health risk, including living in close quarters with others or resorting to homelessness.
The order stops evictions for nonpayment of rent, as long as the tenant meets the criteria above and gives his or her landlord a signed declaration stating as much. The official declaration is attached to the end of the order.
However, if you violate the lease in another way, break the law on your rental property or threaten the health and safety of other residents, you can still be evicted, according to the order. This does not supersede local moratoriums, however, so if a state or city eviction moratorium prevents all evictions for any reason, the federal order does not reestablish evictions for reasons beyond nonpayment of rent.
For all involved, the rent remains due. “There’s no additional resources that are provided under this order to help people actually pay their rent, and it is unrealistic to think that people with low incomes could magically pay a lump sum of back rent starting Jan. 1,” says Peggy Bailey, vice president for housing policy for the Center on Budget and Policy and Priorities.
If you earn more than $99,000 per year, or as a joint-filing couple earn more than $198,000 per year, you are not able to take advantage of the eviction moratorium.
While many tenants will fall under the protection of the order, landlords do not receive any relief under the measure and may see fewer rent payments while the moratorium is in place. Doug Bibby, president of the National Multifamily Housing Council, explains that the loss of rental income, for many landlords, means being unable to make mortgage payments on the rental property, pay property taxes, pay employees or contractors who work in the rental business and pay vendors and other local businesses who maintain or update the property.
“I can’t paint too bleak a picture of what it would look like if you just had this eviction moratorium go forward with no benefit to the landlords to offset the loss of income,” Bibby says.
The forbearance on foreclosures under the CARES Act, which delayed foreclosure activity in the same way a moratorium delays eviction proceedings, expired in July. Lenders are widely being reported as accommodating to property owners who request a forbearance or modification during the pandemic, but Bibby stresses that a mortgage is just one-third of the total cost to operate a rental property.
If you are a renter struggling to pay rent, you may invoke the order by providing your landlord with a signed copy of the declaration.
The declaration states that the tenant currently faces the hardships established in the order and is seeking protection from eviction as a result. By signing the declaration, the tenant acknowledges that rent is still due, he or she must still follow the parameters of the lease agreement and that at the end of the moratorium, any rent that went unpaid is due in full.
By signing it, however, you are also attesting to attempts to receive government aid and promising to pay what you can in rent continuously, among the other requirements, under penalty of perjury. “It is important for renters that if they can pay their rent, they do,” Bailey says.
Additionally, it’s important to remember that the rent is still due under the eviction moratorium. What you don’t pay now will continue to pile up and be due at the end of the moratorium, with the possibility of eviction if it is not paid.
Housing experts stress that additional steps must be taken in the form of rental assistance, funding to provide individuals experiencing homelessness with safe housing options and to further prevent foreclosures and additional economic issues that can radiate outward from a rent crisis.
“We need Congress and the administration to pass a COVID relief package that includes money to help people pay their rent,” Bailey says. “That package also needs to help people who are currently experiencing homelessness and help service providers continue to keep them safe and keep them temporarily housed in non-congregate settings.”
Further steps are needed to avoid a crisis in one sector of the housing industry that creates waves of affordability issues elsewhere, from unemployment benefits to rent to mortgage payments to property taxes and so on. “What we’re looking for is balance in anything that could go forward,” Bibby says.
Pulling one over on your property manager won't work.
Your ability to communicate with your landlord or property manager as a renter is key to living happily and in peace. When you fail to notify your landlord of problems you encounter – or try to hide guests or other things that may not be permitted in your lease – the relationship is often compromised. Especially in instances when you’ve brought in an unauthorized pet or let a maintenance issue get worse due to not reporting it, you may find yourself having to pay your landlord extra, losing your security deposit or even getting evicted.Stay in touch.
Stay in touch.
Any good landlord will encourage tenants to be in communication often, which makes it easy to request maintenance or ask a question about what the lease allows. Property management companies often offer multiple forms of communication, from face-to-face conversation with a receptionist or leasing agent to contact via email or an online resident portal, says Lynn Edmondson, regional manager of Wendover Housing Partners, a property management company based in Altamonte Springs, Florida. Once you send a request, the property manager or landlord will then “communicate in writing about what’s going on and what needs to be done,” Edmondson says. Read on for seven things you shouldn’t – and likely won’t be able to – hide from your landlord.A new roommate
A new roommate
Living with a roommate is a great way to save on housing expenses, but your landlord has to know about said roommate – and approve. It may be a matter of simply revising the lease once you notify your landlord of the desired addition, but your landlord also has the right to run the potential roommate through the same vetting process as with every other tenant, which can include a credit check, employment confirmation and previous residence referrals. If you sneak a roommate in, your illegal co-tenant could be evicted. One exception is when you have a dependent, which can be a child, elderly parent or an adult relative you legally care for. Laws in certain states clarify that “you’re not allowed to ask an applicant if they have any dependents living in the unit with them,” says Nat Kunes, vice president of product at AppFolio, a full-suite property management software company. Check your state's landlord-tenant laws, which should be available online, for more information.A sublet
Just like a roommate, sneaking a sublet tenant into your rental will likely be found out by a landlord, and it can have devastating consequences. Always review your lease first for a subleasing policy. The landlord may not allow sublets at all or could require the subtenant to go through the same vetting process all residents go through when applying to live there. Also check your state laws on subleasing, which may give you more or less leeway depending on how detailed the law is. In South Carolina, for example, the law states a sublease agreement isn’t valid unless the landlord has signed off on it. An illegal sublet could result in your eviction for violating the lease, as well as the subtenant’s eviction for residing there illegally.A pet
A dog or cat won’t help you pay the rent, but millions of Americans love adding to the rental family by bringing a pet home. Again, however, your landlord has the right to establish a no-pets policy or place restrictions on the pets allowed, such as the type of animal, size and breed. “If the pet [is] qualified to live there, it’s just a minor thing of changing the lease to add that and collect the appropriate fee,” Edmondson says. If you get caught keeping a pet in your place when the landlord hasn’t approved it, you’ll likely have to fork over the fees anyway. But if the place doesn’t allow pets, you’ll likely either be asked to move out or rehome your pet.Pet damage
Outside of properly notifying your landlord or property manager of a new pet, Edmondson says damage to a rental caused by a pet is one of the more common issues she sees residents try to cover up. Whether you struggled to housetrain a puppy or your cat loves scaling the blinds, the best course of action is to own up to the damage before moving out. “I’ve had that happen several times, when [cleaners] go in to clean the carpet and they come back and say, ‘We can’t clean it, there’s too much pet damage,’” Edmondson says. You’ll have to pay for the repairs regardless, but it keeps a more positive interaction between you and the property manager if you’re honest. Trying to get away with damage could also lead to a negative report from the property manager if any future landlord calls to check on your residential history.Maintenance problems
Whether it’s a backed-up toilet, a leaky roof or fire damage in the kitchen, any problem should be reported to your landlord or property manager as soon as you become aware of it. “A lot of those types of maintenance issues that over time get much, much worse,” Kunes says, noting a leak can lead to extensive water damage and mold. Edmondson says there are tenants who simply don’t report such issues for fear of having to cover damage they caused: “They think after they move out they will not be responsible for those damages.” Of course, any damages outside normal wear and tear will come out of your security deposit, and you can additionally be billed for damages exceeding that amount.Broken appliances
If the fridge, dryer, garbage disposal or any other appliance stops working properly, you have the right to report it and expect it to be fixed. There’s a good chance the landlord will replace an older appliance at no charge to you. If the appliance is relatively new or was damaged from particularly hard use, the landlord may look to you to cover it. If you move out before notifying the landlord, it will be discovered, and you’ll be expected to pay it, Edmondson says.A pest problem
A pest problem
Pests can get into a rental property in a variety of ways: Rodents could be stirred up by construction next door, or maybe other tenants have a habit of leaving food uncovered on the counter or table. Either way, it’s imperative you notify your landlord immediately about a pest problem so it can be taken care of. Most large apartment complexes have standing relationships with pest control companies, which consistently work to keep pests from accessing any rental homes and limit the spread of those that do get inside. If you don’t start communicating with your property manager early on, the problem could become worse – and the blame may fall on you as a result. “That could be a tenant-caused issue that the tenant could be responsible for to pay,” Kunes says.Read More
She has appeared in media interviews across the U.S. including National Public Radio, WTOP (Washington, D.C.) and KOH (Reno, Nevada) and various print publications, as well as having served on panels discussing real estate development, city planning policy and homebuilding.
Previously, she served as a researcher of commercial real estate transactions and information, and is currently a member of the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Thorsby studied Political Science at the University of Michigan, where she also served as a news reporter and editor for the student newspaper The Michigan Daily. Follow her on Twitter or write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.