Federal Moratorium on Evictions
Stay in Your Home
FEDERAL EVICTION MORATORIUM
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an order on Tuesday, September 1, 2020, protecting low to moderate-income tenants from eviction for nonpayment of rent throughout the remainder of 2020.
Under this Order, a landlord shall not evict any covered person from any residential property in any jurisdiction to which this Order applies. The order was effective immediately on September 4th, 2020, and continues through December 31, 2020.
Please Note: This order is not a continuation of the CARES Act. It does not matter for purposes of this order whether a property has a federally-backed mortgage or participates in any sort of voucher or subsidy program.
The CDC’s order only protects tenants who meet all of the following:
- The tenant must expect to earn no more than $99,000 in annual income in 2020 ($198,000 if filing a joint return), was not required to report income to the IRS in 2019 (SSA or other benefit recipients), or received a stimulus check under the CARES Act;
- The tenant has tried their best to apply for all available government assistance available for rent or housing;
- The tenant is unable to pay all the rent as a result of a substantial loss of household income, loss of compensable work hours or wages, a layoff, or “extraordinary” out-of-pocket medical expenses (=unreimbursed medical expenses that exceed 7.5% of adjusted gross income for the year);
- The tenant is trying their best to make timely and full payments as the tenant’s circumstances permit, taking into account other nondiscretionary expenses; and
- If evicted, the tenant would likely become homeless, need to move into a homeless shelter, or move into a new congregate or shared living setting (i.e., where residents live in close quarters) because the individual has no other available housing options.
To qualify under the moratorium, the tenant must also submit a declaration (or written statement) to their landlord under penalty of perjury that they meet these standards. Tenants can be subject to criminal penalties for making false statements.
A tenant's or Homeowner's Declaration Form can be found here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/declaration-form.pdf.
If the landlord has received a Declaration, the court should take it as valid unless the landlord disputes its validity, in which case the court can take evidence on the tenant’s qualifications. If a valid Declaration has been provided, the court should abate the case until the moratorium expires.
Note: If a tenant appears at any point in the process, including after a judgment but before the execution of a writ of possession, and informs the court that they have provided a Declaration, the court should immediately halt proceedings and determine whether or not a Declaration has been provided to the landlord.
How are the CARES Act and the Supreme Court’s 24th Emergency Order Affected by This Order?
If the tenant is a “covered person” under this order, the CARES Act and 24th Order become moot because the case cannot proceed. However, suppose the tenant is not a “covered person” either because they don’t meet the qualifications or failed to provide a Declaration to the landlord. In that case, the court still must consider the 24th Emergency Order requirements and the CARES Act. These requirements are covered by TJCTC’s CARES Act flowchart, available here.
How to Handle Cases Filed Before September 4, 2020
This order does not explicitly impose requirements in cases filed before the order’s effective date. However, the court would be within its rights to ask at any hearing held on or after September 4, 2020, whether the landlord has received a Declaration from the tenant that the tenant is a “covered person” under this order.
How to Handle Cases Filed on or After September 4, 2020
How to proceed in cases filed on or after the order’s effective date depends on two factors:
1) whether the landlord states in a sworn petition that they have not received a declaration, and
2) whether or not the tenant answers or appears at trial.
If the Petition States That the Tenant Did Not Provide a Declaration AND the Tenant Answers or Appears
Since the tenant’s appearance or answer places the landlord’s sworn petition in dispute, the court should not grant an eviction judgment without taking evidence on the trial date on whether the tenant is a “covered person.” The court has full authority to develop the facts of the case under Rule 500.6. If a valid Declaration has been provided, the court should abate the case until the moratorium expires. Also, remember that the Supreme Court’s 24th Emergency Order and CARES Act protections still apply.
If the Petition is Silent on Whether a Declaration Was Provided
Suppose the landlord does not include in the sworn petition a statement that they have not received a tenant declaration. In that case, the court should not grant an eviction judgment without taking evidence on the trial date on whether the tenant is a “covered person” regardless of whether the tenant answers or appears. The court has full authority to proceed in this manner under Rule 500.6. If a valid Declaration has been provided, the court should abate the case until the moratorium expires. Also, remember that the Supreme Court’s 24th Emergency Order and CARES Act protections still apply.
The most important part of the order for a client is that the tenant must pay rent and follow all the other terms of their lease and the rules of the place where they live. Nothing in this Order precludes the charging or collecting of fees, penalties, or interest due to the failure to pay rent on a timely basis under the terms of the lease. A tenant can be evicted for reasons other than not paying rent.
Although the federal eviction ban has helped households avoid eviction and will help households in the future, it does not prevent people from accruing housing-related debt. People still owe rent payments even when they cannot be evicted for non-payment, so they are still at risk of eviction when any federal, state, or local moratoriums end if they cannot pay their current rent or make up the past-due amounts.
Belinda J. Martinez/Staff Attorney Lone Star Legal Aid