The U.S.’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a nationwide order on Tuesday, September 1, banning landlords from evicting tenants because of inability to pay rent due financial strain from COVID-19. Of the 43 million Americans who pay rent, approximately 30% are over 55 years old, according to America’s Rental Housing 2020.
The national eviction ban was issued under a federal law that gives the CDC director authority to impose measures to prevent the spread of communicable disease “as he [or] she deems necessary.” The provision specifically refers to filling the gaps left by “inadequate” state-imposed public health measures and does not directly mention financial aid or overriding contracts between citizens, raising questions about its legality.
“President Trump is committed to helping hardworking Americans stay in their homes and combating the spread of the coronavirus. Today’s announcement from his administration means that people are struggling to pay rent and risk further spreading of exposure to the disease, due to economic hardship,” said Brian Morgenstern, White House spokesman.
Do you qualify?
In order to qualify for the eviction protection:
- A 2020 income will fall below the threshold set out in the order which is less than $99,000 or a joint-filing couple that expects to make less than $198,000.
- Have sought all potential sources of federal housing aid.
- Unable to afford to pay the rent due to a pandemic-related job loss or expense despite their best efforts to do so.
Those who meet these qualifications will not be required to pay rent owed per the terms of the lease, and will be allowed to stay in their unit through the end of the year.
But don’t be fooled!
The order does not completely cancel rent for the rest of the year! In addition, the order does not prevent landlords from charging or collecting fees, penalties, or interest as a result of a tenant’s failure to pay rent on time.
The eviction ban does not apply if the following has occurred:
- Criminal activity on the premises
- Threatening of health or safety of other tenants
- Damage or posing an immediate and significant risk of damage to the property
- Violation of building codes or health ordinances related to health and safety
- Violation of any of the terms of the rental agreement other than the timely payment of rent.
At the beginning of 2021, when the eviction ban will end, tenants will owe any unpaid rent. Experts fear that this could create a greater financial problem for Americans. The continuum of unpaid financial obligations could create a significant amount of debt for millions of Americans.
Housing advocates conflicted
Housing advocates praised the administration for taking action to keep vulnerable tenants from homelessness, but also rebuked it for not acting sooner and raised concerns about the rent due by households protected under the order.
“While an eviction moratorium is an essential step, it is a half-measure that extends a financial cliff for renters to fall off of when the moratorium expires and back rent is owed,” said Diane Yentel, president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC).
“This action delays but does not prevent evictions. 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.”
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