If you’re a landlord, then you’re well aware that many state governors enacted eviction moratoriums to protect vulnerable tenants during stay-at-home orders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, certain metropolitan areas (including Atlanta and Boston) issued moratoriums of their own, while some state Supreme Courts also intervened by issuing emergency orders halting eviction proceedings. In some instances, evictions were allowed at the discretion of lower courts.
The federal government also got involved when the Director of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued an executive order halting certain evictions based on nonpayment of rent. The CDC’s order was much more limited than most state and local moratoriums, requiring tenants to take certain actions to stop the eviction process from moving forward.
These moratoriums are likely to put landlords in a financial and moral bind. While nonpayment of rent can threaten your livelihood, especially in the absence of additional federal relief for small businesses, no one really wants to throw someone out of their home while COVID-19 and its variants are still a threat and workers are still suffering from massive job losses and loss of income. While we are all hoping for a miracle recovery by year’s end, the health of the economy still remains tentative at best.
It’s a tough time for landlords and tenants, as the novel coronavirus continues to upend life as we know it. Understanding which eviction moratoriums apply to your rental property, when they expire, their scope, and related details will help you make informed, legally defensible decisions.
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Is there an eviction moratorium that is still active in my property’s state right now?
Most eviction moratoriums that were enacted at the state and local levels have expired. Notable exceptions are listed below:
- New Jersey – Through 12/31/2021
- New York – Through 1/15/2022
Many states have retired their eviction moratoriums, but put in place additional procedures for landlords and tenants that could delay moving forward with an eviction for nonpayment of rent:
- California – Landlords and tenants who qualify may submit a rent relief application for assistance in catching up on rent payments or receiving past due rent revenue. Landlords will need to apply for rental assistance before proceeding with an eviction lawsuit.
- Connecticut – Landlords are required to file an application with UniteCT before evicting for nonpayment of rent. This requirement runs through 2/15/2022.
- Minnesota – Tenants who have a pending rental assistance application will be protected from eviction until 6/1/2022 when all remaining eviction protections are scheduled to end.
- Oregon – Landlords who serve a notice of nonpayment of rent will need to include a notice of tenant’s rights and wait 60-days before filing for eviction if tenants can show they have applied for rental assistance. Many protections will end on 2/28/2022.
The courts in one state continue to limit evictions for nonpayment of rent, with no firm deadline set. Tenants must provide the court with proof of inability to pay rent:
- New Mexico – By order of the NM Supreme Court.
Many states that don’t have a moratorium are offering grants and other forms of financial assistance to tenants who are behind on their rent and facing eviction because of a legitimate hardship. Each state has its own eligibility requirements and processes, but here are some examples:
- Arizona – Tenants may seek emergency rental assistance. Information can be found through the Arizona Department of Housing.
- Florida – The Our Florida emergency rental assistance relief program is accepting applications for rental and utility assistance starting May 17, 2021.
- New Hampshire. The New Hampshire Emergency Rental Assistance Program is providing relief funds for eligible applicants to help pay rent.
Keep in mind that this pandemic is a moving target and your state may issue a new moratorium or extend existing ones at any time.
Is the eviction moratorium only for late rent?
Eviction moratoriums are meant to address the financial hardships many tenants are suffering as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, they generally protect tenants only for the inability to pay rent. In other words, these moratoriums generally don’t prevent you from issuing an Eviction Notice for other causes, such as egregious (or repeated) violations of the contract or illegal activities.
Even if your tenant is protected, however, it’s always a good idea to send them a Late Rent Notice if they fall behind. You might also want to work out a Late Rent Payment Agreement if you believe you and the tenant can compromise on rent payments. There are many state and local rent assistance programs available, funded both by federal and state governments. Any rent assistance your tenant can get is back-rent money in your pocket, so it could be beneficial for both you and your tenant to check out the nationwide directory of state and local rental assistance programs posted online by the National Low Income Housing Coalition.
When does the federal moratorium on evictions issued by the CDC end?
The most recent federal eviction moratorium issued by the CDC covered certain tenants through October 3, 2021, with the goal of slowing the spread of COVID-19 by preventing overcrowding in shelters or other emergency living situations that may follow an eviction. Even if you started the eviction process prior to the CDC’s order, it would have halted the process if the affected tenant was eligible. Also, tenants were still responsible for paying any past due rent owed once the moratorium ended. The CDC extension of its eviction moratorium was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court on August 26, 2021. It is even more important now for landlords to understand the local eviction rules and regulations governing their rental properties and to ask a lawyer for guidance on how to proceed with an eviction legally.
To be eligible for protection while the federal moratorium was in place, tenants must have handed you a signed declaration form (under penalty of perjury) affirming that they:
- Earned no more than $99,000 ($198,000 for a couple filing taxes jointly) in 2020, or expects to earn no more than $99,000 ($198,000 for a couple filing taxes jointly) in 2021; are not required to report 2020 income to the IRS, or received a stimulus check.
- Tried seeking government assistance for rent or housing.
- Are unable to make full or partial payments because of a substantial loss of household income, loss of work hours or wages, lay-off, or “extraordinary” out-of-pocket medical expenses.
- Are using best efforts to make timely partial payments that are as close to full payments as the tenant’s situation permits taking into consideration the tenant’s other nondiscretionary expenses.
- Would become homeless or have to move into a congregate or shared living situation, living close quarters, because the tenant has no other options.
As a landlord, you were not required to verify all of this information, but you could have required supporting information as a condition of compliance with the moratorium.
Were there exceptions to the CDC’s eviction moratorium?
There were some exceptions and ambiguities in the federal moratorium, which has now been struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court. For one thing, it did not protect tenants who engaged in criminal activity, destroyed property, caused major or repeated disruptions, or any other behaviors (besides late rent payment) that normally might have resulted in an eviction. Evicting a tenant only on the basis of trespass when the tenant was remaining on the residential property but not paying rent was not, according to the CDC, a proper cause for eviction. Also, the CDC moratorium exempted the owners of motels, hotels, or short term rentals.
Another question mark was how to proceed if, for example, a tenant’s lease was set to expire during the moratorium period. If a landlord who may have wanted to evict a tenant simply chose not to renew the tenant’s lease because they were late with the rent, was that technically an eviction? If the tenant stayed past the expiration date of the lease because they could not afford to move elsewhere, would that have been valid grounds for an eviction?
One big concern among landlords is how the moratorium has impacted their ability to pay the mortgage on their property or cover other operating expenses. Many of these impacts will likely be raised in lawsuits and decided in the courts.
Before you evict, make sure you understand COVID-era moratoriums
Landlords typically don’t enjoy going through the eviction process, but it’s sometimes necessary, both as a last resort for problem tenants and for other reasons unrelated to lease violations. If you find yourself in the unenviable position of posting an Eviction Notice, just make sure you do it in accordance with the law. If your tenant is unable to pay rent and believes they are protected by a state or local moratorium or program, you’ll want to ask an attorney about the laws that apply to your property and your legal options. Rocket Lawyer offers specialized products and services for landlords at affordable prices, including answers and advice from Rocket Lawyer On Call® attorneys.
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.