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 has 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 since been extended twice.
We’ll discuss the current state of the eviction moratorium and renter protections, updates on the COVID-19 Relief Bill just passed by the House of Representatives, 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.
In late-breaking news today, March 29, it is being reported that the CDC has extended the nationwide eviction moratorium through June 2021. Stay tuned for updates as we continue to follow these developments. .
As with past moratoriums, the current extension to June 30, 2021 protects tenants from eviction for nonpayment of rent only. If you owe back rent, nothing in this or past legislation forgives your debts, it just protects you from receiving an eviction notice.
You’ll also need 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 involves filling out some paperwork, which includes the CDC Eviction Moratorium Declaration.
Some states and local governments also implemented new or extended eviction moratoriums and other tenant relief measures. State and local eviction protections vary by location. 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 Moratorium Examples
- New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order extending New York’s eviction moratorium to May 1, 2021. New York’s moratorium suspends all five stages of eviction for qualifying tenants.
- Oregon’s eviction moratorium was extended through June 2021 (pending court challenges by groups representing landlords), but it doesn’t require that courts stop eviction orders, judgments, or writs of execution.
- Washington Governor Jay Inslee extended Washington’s eviction moratorium to June 30, 2021 and expanded vaccine eligibility. The state also continues to make adjustments to provide additional assistance to landlords and property owners.
- Governor Gavin Newsom signed legislation last January to extend California’s eviction moratorium through June 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 April 3, 2021.
Federal Eviction Moratorium Court Cases
In an interesting twist to eviction moratorium legal challenges playing out in courts across the nation, U.S. District Court Judge J. Campbell Barker from the Eastern District of Texas struck down the CDC’s eviction moratorium on February 25. The U.S. Department of Justice immediately filed an appeal, indicating that the decision does not extend beyond that particular case, and that landlords who rent to eligible tenants must still comply with the eviction moratorium. Another federal judge in Cleveland, Ohio also struck down the CDC eviction moratorium in a ruling on March 10, 2021. Federal Judge J. Philip Calabrese ruled that the CDC had overstepped its authority. This ruling may allow landlords in the Cleveland area to resume evictions that had been set aside due to the moratorium.
The main takeaway is that many U.S. tenants are protected against eviction for nonpayment of rent through at least March 31, although additional federal relief could be in the works. 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.
What can I do as a renter who is experiencing financial hardship and worried about eviction?
During the short reprieve offered by the current eviction moratorium, 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.
By acting now, even if you’re protected from eviction, 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 received additional federal funding, so check these resources regularly. If you’re already 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. More funding will be made available through state and local authorities in the coming months and the CDC has just extended the nationwide eviction moratorium through June 2021.
Avoid eviction and stay tuned
Thankfully, Americans who are concerned about being evicted for nonpayment of rent have until June 30, 2021 to find other housing options or work with their landlords to stay where they are. Still, there is plenty of work left to do to ensure that an eventual nationwide wave of evictions doesn’t increase housing insecurity as we work our way through the pandemic together. While new legislation and the new CDC eviction moratorium extension offers hope, you’ll also need to take certain actions to protect your interests as a tenant. Stay tuned for updates to this page as we closely monitor the status of our current federal eviction moratorium. 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.