Tenants have been given a number of additional protections during the COVID-19 pandemic. One of these protections is the CDC eviction moratorium. Tenants can declare themselves eligible for this moratorium by filling out a CDC Declaration.
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What is a CDC Declaration?
A CDC Declaration is a statement by a tenant that they have suffered economic hardship as a result of COVID-19 and qualify for the CDC eviction moratorium. The declaration is made under penalty of perjury, meaning that the tenant can face penalties if they lie on the form.
The CDC has released a CDC Declaration Form that tenants can use, however tenants are not required to use this specific form. They simply need to provide a written statement, under penalty of perjury, certifying that they meet each of the eligibility requirements to qualify for eviction moratorium protections.
How do I know if a tenant qualifies for the eviction protections offered by a CDC Declaration?
The eligibility requirements are fairly straightforward. Tenants sign a sworn statement that they:
- Used best efforts to obtain all available government assistance.
- Had a maximum income of $99,000 in 2020, was not required to file a 2019 tax return, or was eligible for stimulus payments.
- Were not able to pay rent due to a substantial loss in income or increase in medical costs.
- Made best efforts to make partial rent payments.
- Would be homeless or forced to live in close quarters if evicted.
The CDC Declaration does not prevent you from filing an Eviction Notice or pursuing eviction. It does give the tenant a legal defense against eviction. If you believe the tenant does not qualify for the eviction protections, you can challenge their statement in court as you could with any other defense to eviction. The court would then seek additional information as required and then rule on whether you are permitted to evict.
Does the CDC Declaration protect against all types of evictions?
The CDC Declaration only protects against eviction for non-payment of rent during the covered disaster period. If your tenant was already behind on rent prior to the pandemic or has violated other lease terms, the CDC Declaration may not shield them.
Keep in mind that the CDC Declaration provides additional protections over state and local laws. It does not limit state and local eviction bans. For example, if your tenant owes rent for a period not covered by the CDC eviction moratorium and your state has a total eviction ban in place, you might not be able to evict for non-payment. Even though the CDC Declaration does not cover your tenant, state provisions still might.
What should landlords do if they receive a CDC Declaration from a tenant?
If you receive a CDC Declaration from a tenant, your first option is to work with your tenant. The CDC Declaration only delays eviction. It does not prevent you from collecting the owed funds. If your tenant paid reliably before the pandemic and you believe their financial situation is improving, you may want to work out a Rent Payment Plan. A formal payment plan allows you to work with your tenant to get them caught up on rent without waiving your right to take action for future missed payments or other issues.
If you do not want to work with your tenant or believe they are not eligible for the eviction moratorium, you may ask for verification. However, there may not be much you can do if your tenant insists that they are eligible. It’s the local courts that will ultimately decide if your tenant qualifies for the eviction moratorium. Some courts may not be processing evictions at all, which would prevent you from challenging the declaration. Once you are able to go to court, you will want to bring any evidence you have that shows the tenant does not qualify, such as proof of current income.
To learn more about a landlord’s rights and obligations during COVID-19, visit the Rocket Lawyer COVID-19 Legal Center. Reach out to a Rocket Lawyer On Call® attorney if you have questions or need legal advice about your particular situation.
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.