***UPDATE: The CDC issued a new eviction moratorium on August 3rd, which applies to communities with substantial or high risk of COVID-19 transmission and is set to remain in place until October 4th. Please CLICK HERE for detailed information.***
In September 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced a nationwide moratorium on certain evictions. The moratorium has since been extended multiple times as the pandemic continues to affect people’s ability to pay rent, most recently extended until June 30th, 2021. The CDC’s order is a response to the housing crisis caused by income loss due to COVID-19. According to the order, landlords cannot evict tenants because of their inability to pay rent. The CDC issued this moratorium to protect public health and help slow the spread of coronavirus.
Who is protected under the CDC moratorium?
The eviction moratorium applies to rental housing across the United States, regardless of whether the housing is publicly or privately owned. It does not apply to hotels or motels.
To be “covered” by the moratorium, you must meet the following 5 qualifications:
1. You made less than $99,000 (or $198,000 if you are married and filing a joint tax return) in Calendar Year 2020 or expect to make less than $99,000 in Calendar Year 2021 (or $198,000 if you are married and filing a joint tax return), you did not have to pay income tax in 2020, OR you received a federal stimulus check;
2. You cannot pay rent because of lost income or because of high out-of-pocket medical costs;
3. You have used your best efforts to obtain government rental assistance;
4. You would become homeless or need to move in with a friend or family member if you were evicted;
5. You will continue to pay as much rent as you can, given your circumstances.
What actions do I have to take to be protected?
If you meet the conditions above, you must sign and send a declaration to your landlord. Always make sure that you have proof that you sent the declaration:
· Take a photo of the declaration, send it as a text message, and then screenshot the text message
· Take a photo or scan the declaration and send it via email, then print the email before going to court
· Make a copy for yourself and send the declaration via certified mail
· Make a copy for yourself and when you give your landlord the original, have them sign the copy to indicate they have received it
This declaration includes a section on the first page where you can certify how you sent the declaration and the date that you sent it.
If I already sent an eviction moratorium declaration to my landlord, do I have to submit a new one under the new extension?
No. If you have not moved and have already signed and submitted a declaration to your landlord, you do not need to give them another one.
When do I send the declaration?
You can send the declaration at any stage of the eviction process, but it is best if you send it as soon as you know you will be behind on rent. A declaration may not deter your landlord from sending you a notice to vacate or filing for eviction with the court, but the CDC states that they risk fines and jail time for any action they take that might remove you from your home. If you send the declaration and your landlord moves forward with any of these actions, call the Southeast Louisiana Legal Services COVID-19 legal aid helpline to find free legal assistance in your area at 1-844-244-7871 or contact us at 1-877-445-2100.
Does this mean rent is cancelled until July?
No. You are still responsible for the entirety of the rent you owe and your landlord can try to collect this rent starting on July 1, 2021. You are also responsible for paying as much rent as you can, even if you cannot pay the full amount. Landlords may still charge late fees or other penalties, but they cannot enforce those fees until July 1, 2021.
Can I be evicted for something other than non-payment of rent?
Yes, the CDC order says you can still be evicted for:
· Engaging in criminal activity on the property;
· Threatening the health or safety of other residents (having COVID-19 and taking reasonable precautions to protect others cannot be considered a health or safety risk);
· Damaging or posing an immediate and significant risk of damage to property;
· Violating any building code, health ordinance, or similar regulation relating to health and safety; or
· Violating any other lease requirement other than payment of rent.
The order does not say you can be evicted because your lease has ended and the owner chooses not to renew it, however, many judges have allowed evictions to proceed in these cases. If you are evicted for lease non-renewal it will be important to have an attorney familiar with the CDC order represent you in court. Call the SLLS COVID-19 helpline at 1-844-244-7871 or contact us at 1-877-445-2100.
What happens if my landlord evicts me anyway?
Remember, an eviction is only legal if it goes to court and is ordered by a judge. If your landlord changes the locks, puts your stuff out on the curb, or kicks you out without a judge’s order it is an illegal eviction. Under the CDC moratorium, landlords can also face criminal penalties if they try to evict you for non-payment of rent. If your landlord sends you a notice to vacate or any other communication threatening eviction or if your landlord tries to illegally evict you, contact the SLLS COVID-19 helpline at 1-844-244-7871 or contact us at 1-877-445-2100.
Read the CDC’s statement in its entirety here.
**The information in this blog post is for informational purposes only and not intended to be legal advice. You should contact an attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or concern.**