CDC Eviction Moratorium: What Landlords Need to Know
In September 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced the issuance of an order under Section 361 of the Public Health Service Act to temporarily halt residential evictions through December 31, 2020 in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19.
With this year’s rise in unemployment and stalled talks in Congress to push through a second coronavirus relief bill, the eviction moratorium allows authorities to implement stay-at-home and social distancing directives more easily. The idea behind the order is that by limiting the number of homeless people, shelters can operate in compliance with social distancing guidelines and thereby help prevent the spread of COVID-19 among this vulnerable population, which includes many who suffer from underlying medical conditions.
For landlords, however, the renewed moratorium brings a slew of concerns and uncertainty, so it is important for landlords to understand the rules and their rights for dealing with evictions. Although the order applies nationwide, it is not automatic. To be covered, tenants must write a declaration to the landlord under penalty of perjury.
Filing for Eviction
Landlords can still carry out evictions for reasons other than missed rent payments. These reasons include property damage. While the CDC order temporarily stops evictions for nonpayment, it does not mean overdue rents are forgiven. Once the moratorium expires, tenants may be asked to provide the back rent as a lump-sum payment.
Suing for Rent
While the eviction moratorium is in place, landlords can still sue tenants for rent. When landlords file a lawsuit in Small Claims Court, the judge will weigh in on the case and determine the amount due on the lease. Once a judgment is rendered, the landlord can garnish wages or go after the tenant’s bank accounts.
Many landlords have been left to wonder if month-to-month leases would be better under the current circumstances. In general, terminating a month-to-month lease is permissible as long as the landlord gives the tenant at least a month’s notice. Keep in mind, however, that some municipalities and states have passed temporary rules that prohibit landlords from evicting tenants — no matter the terms of the lease — and restrict landlords from giving tenants termination notices.
Communication and Documentation
Landlords and property managers should maintain frequent communication with their tenants. Putting all agreements in some form of writing will help landlords avoid headaches down the road. Text messages should be printed out if they are to be used as evidence of an agreement. Additionally, some lawyers advise landlords to add a clause into rental agreements that holds tenants’ failure to communicate as evidence of a non-monetary default on the lease.
Using Your Voice
It’s not a good idea to push for evictions before the moratorium expires. Violators may be fined up to $250,000 and face up to a year in jail. The best way for landlords to make their voices heard is by letting their Congressmen know if they believe the CDC order isn’t fair. The National Real Estate Investors Association has an ongoing advocacy campaign opposing the CDC eviction moratorium.