Millions of Americans continue to struggle financially as businesses big and small fight to stay afloat amid repeated pandemic shutdowns and re-openings. Renters, in particular, worry about the possibility of eviction when they don’t have the money to pay rent. A federal nationwide eviction moratorium had been in place since March 2020. Congress issued the first moratorium as part of the CARES Act. The CDC stepped in after the expiration of the CARES Act moratorium to issue its own moratorium, which has been extended numerous times.
We’ll discuss the current state of the eviction moratorium and renter protections, Congressional actions, President Biden’s plans to help struggling tenants, and steps you can take to protect your interests as a renter.
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Which state and federal eviction moratoriums remain in place?
The federal moratorium that ended at midnight on January 1, 2021 was immediately extended to January 31. President Biden had the CDC extend the federal moratorium through March 31 right after his inauguration on January 20. The $1.9 trillion American Rescue bill was passed and signed into law in early March, but the bill did not include an extension of the eviction moratorium. It did, however, provide $30 billion in additional funding for emergency rent relief programs.
The CDC extended the nationwide eviction moratorium on May 29, 2021. That extension was through June 30, 2021. The CDC issued another extension, saying this would be its final extension, on June 24, 2021. This last extension ended on July 31, 2021, but due to intense pressure from Congressional Democrats, the CDC issued yet another extension through October 3, 2021 for counties nationwide with substantial and high levels of community transmission of the coronavirus. On August 26, 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the latest CDC extension, leaving millions of renters across the country without protection against eviction for non-payment of rent. While the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision impacts the CDC’s eviction moratorium, it does not necessarily resolve the issue of the legality of state and local eviction laws. Stay tuned for updates as we continue to follow these developments.
As with past moratoriums, the extension through October 3, 2021 protected tenants from eviction for nonpayment of rent only. If you owed back rent, nothing in this or past legislation forgave your debts, it just protected you from receiving an eviction notice.
You also needed to meet certain conditions in order to qualify for protection, such as falling below the $99,000 annual income threshold and making a good-faith effort to pay at least partial rent. This involved filling out some paperwork, which included the CDC Eviction Moratorium Declaration.
Some states and local governments have implemented new or extended eviction moratoriums, “bridge” programs, and other tenant relief measures. State and local eviction protections vary by location, with some state and local governments extending eviction moratoriums past the CDC’s more recent deadlines or placing restrictions on landlord evictions if rental assistance or eviction resolution programs are not yet operational. Most moratoriums prohibit one or more of the following eviction procedures:
- Eviction notice
- Eviction court filings
- Eviction hearings
- Eviction orders, judgments, and writs of execution
- Eviction (removal) orders
State Eviction Moratoriums
- New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed an executive order extending New York’s eviction moratorium to January 15, 2022. New York’s moratorium suspends all five stages of eviction for qualifying tenants.
- Oregon’s eviction moratorium was extended through June 30, 2021. An Oregon bill (SB 278) was passed and signed into law in June, providing that if tenants are unable to pay their July or August rent, landlords will not be able evict for 60 days if tenants provide proof that they have applied for rental assistance through Oregon Housing and Community Services.
- Washington Governor Jay Inslee extended Washington’s eviction moratorium to June 30, 2021 for tenants who have submitted a declaration of financial hardship to their landlords and expanded vaccine eligibility. Beyond June 30, the state will offer an eviction moratorium bridge, which provides a transition to the eviction resolution programs the state is continuing to roll out. Landlords may not evict tenants in locations where there is no operational eviction resolution and rental assistance program in place.
- California Governor Gavin Newsom signed legislation on June 28, 2021 to extend California’s eviction moratorium through September 30, 2021, with additional funds to assist tenants with rent and small property owners.
- Illinois Governor JB Pritzker issued an executive order extending the residential eviction moratorium through July 24, 2021.
Federal Eviction Moratorium Court Cases
The U.S. Supreme Court declined to lift the CDC eviction moratorium in a 5-4 decision issued on June 29, 2021, leaving the moratorium in place until it it ends on July 31, 2021. The only opinion issued was a brief concurring opinion from Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh. Justice Kavanaugh agreed that the CDC had exceeded its authority, but cast his vote with the majority given the need for more time to distribute federal rental assistance funds and the official end of the moratorium in just a few weeks. Once the CDC extended the eviction moratorium to October 3, 2021, the Supreme Court acted to strike down the CDC’s authority to do so, delivering an unsigned opinion on August 26, 2021.
The main takeaway, for now, is that the CDC’s eviction moratorium has, for all intents and purposes, ended. State and local protections, meanwhile, vary quite a bit and are still very much in flux.
Does the latest $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill provide additional tenant protections or aid?
The $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill, signed into law on March 11, 2021 provides more funding for emergency rental assistance originally authorized in the December COVID relief bill. The funds will be given directly to states, U.S. territories, local governments with a population of more than 200,000 residents, the Department of Hawaiian Homelands, and Indian tribes.
The Emergency Rental Assistance Program provides additional relief for tenants beyond the moratorium on evictions. Specifically, the program provides $25 billion in emergency tenant assistance, which can be used for up to 12 months for overdue rent and utility payments from the beginning of the pandemic, or for future bills. Renters would apply for assistance with relief organizations, selected by state and local officials, who will pay the funds directly to landlords.
Applicants must meet all of the following criteria to be eligible for rent assistance:
- Have a household income that is less than 80% of the area median income (AMI).
- Have at least one household member who is at risk of becoming homeless or experiencing housing insecurity.
- Have at least one household member who qualifies for unemployment insurance benefits or experienced a financial hardship due to the pandemic (directly or indirectly).
Although the application process will vary by state, relief will be prioritized for households with incomes falling below 50% of AMI and who have at least one member who has been unemployed for more than 90 days. Household income from 2020 or monthly income at the time of application will be considered when determining eligibility (subject to recertification every three months). This legislation also provides funding for landlord-tenant mediation and case management services. As of August 2021, the vast majority of rent relief funding being offered through state programs has gone untouched.
What can I do as a renter who is experiencing financial hardship and worried about eviction?
Now that the CDC’s eviction moratorium has ended, you might consider communicating with your landlord about next steps. You’ll have a difficult time negotiating if you wait until the last minute and they won’t know your intentions if you remain silent. You should also check your state and local laws and programs to see if there are additional protections and rent relief funding available to you.
By acting now, before you’ve received an eviction notice, you may be able to secure more favorable terms from your landlord (perhaps a reduced monthly rent or a long-term repayment plan). For example, proposing a Rent Payment Plan or Late Rent Payment Agreement will demonstrate that you’re proactive and willing to do whatever’s necessary to fulfill your obligations. If they agree to your proposal, make sure you get it in writing.
If you are evicted after the eviction moratoriums have ended, seriously consider attending the hearing. There may be a way to defend yourself against removal, but attending the hearing will at least get you a court date. Otherwise, there will be a default judgment against you and your removal will come a lot sooner. If you need legal assistance, you may be able to find a legal clinic that provides free or reduced-cost services.
Finally, do your research and apply for any rent assistance programs that may be available where you live. These programs will likely receive additional federal funding, so check these resources regularly. If you have been protected by the federal eviction moratorium, then you should already have been doing this. Still, there may be new programs or protections you weren’t previously aware of that can help you.
What additional tenant protections or support has President Joe Biden proposed?
President Joe Biden has been a strong supporter of tenants facing eviction due to loss of income as a result of the pandemic. President Biden folded additional funding for rental assistance into the American Rescue Plan, much of which was passed into law in March 2021.
The President has also proposed more long-term solutions in several ambitious housing measures that would help vulnerable tenants, including substantial investment in affordable housing and tackling lending discrimination.
The more immediate concerns, at least for tenants, include greater protections against eviction and additional rent assistance. Pressure is mounting on Congress to address long-term concerns over mass evictions now that the U.S. Supreme Court has struck down the CDC moratorium. As the Biden administration has exhausted its avenues for protecting tenants from evictions for nonpayment of rent, more attention will turn to state and local governments and courts to find rent relief solutions and to mediate rent disputes between landlords and tenants.
Avoid eviction and stay tuned
Americans who are concerned about being evicted for nonpayment of rent might seek rent assistance for back rent owed or work with their landlords to stay where they are through mutually beneficial rent payment agreements. There is plenty of work left to do to ensure that an eventual nationwide wave of evictions doesn’t increase housing insecurity as we continue to work our way through the pandemic together. While it’s possible Congress may act to provide additional eviction relief, it is not a given. Tenants will need to continue to take actions to protect their interests. Stay tuned for updates to this page as we closely monitor new developments. If you have additional questions about your rights and legal options as a renter, ask a lawyer.
This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.