The Trump administration announced a nationwide eviction moratorium that halts residential evictions until Dec. 31, 2020. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention enacted the emergency order on Tuesday evening, citing the risk to public health.
Issued under Section 361 of the Public Health Service Act, the agency ordered a stop to evictions to “prevent the further spread of COVID-19,” according to the 37-page agency order. The moratorium will go into effect once the order is published in the federal register, which is expected to be Sept. 4.
The sweeping order comes nearly six months into the COVID-19 global health crisis that has killed more than 180,000 Americans and led to an economic downturn. The order also comes one month after additional unemployment benefits in the CARES Act expired and several local and state eviction moratoriums expired, leading many housing advocates to fear a potential wave of evictions.
Under the rules of the order, while renters may not be evicted for nonpayment of rent, they will still be responsible for rent payments. Any fees, penalties or interest accrued as a result of failure to pay rent on time may still be charged to renters, depending on the terms of their lease or contract.
Renters must also sign a declaration saying they don’t earn more than $99,000 a year in income, (or $198,000 a year if filing taxes jointly), would likely have no other option but to become homeless if evicted, and are making partial payments to the extent that their circumstances allows. The sworn declaration must be submitted to a qualifying renter’s landlord.
Landlords may still evict residents for reasons other than non-payment of rent.
According to the order, landlords and owners in violation of the CDC’s eviction moratorium could face criminal penalties imposed by the government.
“Long overdue,” but not enough
The federal order is the most drastic measure the Trump administration has taken to prevent evictions in the wake of COVID-19, but it’s not the federal order industry trade groups were hoping for.
In a statement released shortly after the eviction moratorium was announced, National Multifamily Housing Council President Doug Bibby said the leading industry group was “disappointed” in the Trump administration’s decision to enact the nationwide moratorium without also providing long-term rental relief and unemployment assistance.
“An eviction moratorium will ultimately harm the very people it aims to help by making it impossible for housing providers, particularly small owners, to meet their financial obligations and continue to provide shelter to their residents,” said Bibby, who has long pushed for federal rent relief for those impacted financially by COVID-19.
He added that the moratorium order “does nothing” to address the financial obligations and pressures of rental property owners.
Housing advocates, however, supported the sweeping moratorium.
“A uniform, national moratorium on evictions for nonpayment of rent is long overdue and badly needed,” said National Low Income Housing Coalition President & CEO Diane Yentel in a statement Tuesday evening.
However, housing and renter advocates agree with the NMHC and other trade groups about the dire need for federal rent relief funds.
Yentel said the eviction ban is not enough, urging Congress to pass significant rent relief legislation to help renters burdened by COVID-19-related financial struggles.
“This action delays but does not prevent evictions,” she said. “Congress and the White House must get back to work on negotiations to enact a COVID-19 relief bill with at least $100 billion in emergency rental assistance.”
The CDC’s announcement comes one day after California Governor Gavin Newsom signed new eviction protection legislation into law just before prior eviction protections for the state’s renters were set to expire.
State lawmakers in California approved a bill Aug. 31 that would bar landlords from evicting renters who did not make rental payments between March 1 and Aug. 31 due to the pandemic. Additionally, the legislation bans evictions for those same renters through Jan. 31, 2021, but only if the renters pay at least 25 percent of the rent owed during that time period.