The Trump administration on Tuesday issued a “surprising” four-month moratorium on all evictions of tenants who lost jobs and are unable to pay rent because of the coronavirus crisis, effective immediately through the end of 2020.
The order came down via the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — a federal agency not usually associated with housing — which has the authority to regulate public health. The eviction ban covers all 43 million U.S. residential renters provided they meet income-eligibility requirements.
The CDC says in the order that covid-19 “presents a historic threat to public health.”
President Donald Trump gave the CDC and other federal agencies the job of studying the issue of housing under growing pressure to protect tenants after an earlier four-month federal moratorium on evictions expired at the end of July.
The CDC framed the moratorium as an “effective public-health measure” to prevent the spread of covid-19. “For months, housing advocates have warned that a mass eviction crisis could force thousands of Americans out of their homes and into crowded shelters, accelerating the spread of the coronavirus. Tuesday’s CDC order acquiesced to those concerns and cited that ‘housing stability helps protect public health,’” New York Curbed reported.
The moratorium goes so far as to impose criminal penalties on landlords who violate it but doesn’t offer any way for landlords to recoup unpaid rent. It also stops short of setting aside new federal dollars for renters, who will eventually owe months of back rent. Response has been mixed, NPR reported.
Renters are eligible if:
Renters who qualify will still owe accrued rent and landlords can charge them for it and collect.
Evictions for reasons other than nonpayment of rent may still proceed, for example, if leases have run out or if tenants violated their lease.
The order has landlords worried they will face financial hardship, Curbed reported.
“Not only does an eviction moratorium not address renters’ real financial needs, a protracted eviction moratorium does nothing to address the financial pressures and obligations of rental-property owners,” said Doug Bibby, the president of the National Multifamily Housing Council.
Some states such as Vermont and New York already have protections for renters. In the 34 states where no protections exist, Tuesday’s CDC order offers some relief.
Unemployed workers have been without enhanced federal benefits since they expired at the end of July. Congress is still trying to hammer out an agreement on a new coronavirus aid package.
Ellen Davidson, staff attorney with the Civil Law Reform Unit at the Legal Aid Society, described the moratorium as “shocking but also a welcome surprise,” Curbed reported.
New York State Senate housing chair Brian Kavanagh said he was “pleased that the federal government is beginning to realize what I and many New Yorkers have advocated since March … that residential evictions are not safe or appropriate in the midst of this pandemic.”
Diane Yentel, CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, said “It’s a pretty extraordinary and bold and unprecedented measure that the White House is taking that will save lives and prevent tens of millions of people from losing their homes in the middle of a pandemic,” NPR reported.
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However, Yentel added, “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.”
Often, Trump makes political moves based on their ability to shore up his base, Curbed reported.
Enacted in late March, the CARES Act moratorium expired at the end of July. Housing lawyers have reported a surge in eviction filings since then, New York Times reported.
In the first 10 days of August, landlords reported collecting almost 30 percent less in rent than during the same period in March, according to Rentec Direct, a property management information and tenant screening firm.
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