I have received a number of questions from clients lately expressing confusion with regard to whether tenants in certain federally assisted properties are still protected from eviction due to non-payment of rent. The CARES Act moratorium on evictions for non-payment of rent expired on July 24, 2020, and on August 8, President Trump issued an executive order that he indicated would provide eviction protection for residents in federally assisted housing. The order directs a number of federal agencies, including HUD and the Department of Treasury, to consider actions to prevent eviction and foreclosure. It requires the secretaries of HUD and Treasury to identify any available federal funds that could be used to provide temporary financial assistance to renters due to the pandemic.
Specifically, the CARES Act provided a 120-day eviction moratorium for renters who received federal housing assistance, renters in properties with federally backed mortgages, and residents in LIHTC properties. Between 30 and 40 million people could be at risk of eviction over the next few months without an extended moratorium.
Trump’s executive order does not extend the moratorium. Instead, it directs executive branch officials to think about possible solutions, rather than actually impose or extend the moratorium. Here are the key provisions of Trump’s executive order:
- It directs the Treasury and HUD Secretaries to identify federal funds that can be applied to “temporary financial assistance to renters and homeowners;”
- It directs the Secretary of Health & Human Services and the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to “consider whether any measures temporarily halting residential evictions of any tenants for failure to pay rent are reasonably necessary;” and
- It directs the Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) to identify “resources that may be used to prevent evictions and foreclosures for renters and homeowners” caused by the pandemic. As an independent agency, it is unclear whether the President can direct the FHFA to do anything.
The executive order contained no deadlines for action and is essentially a political document – not an order to extend the eviction moratorium. Unless governed by state or local law, affected landlords are not prevented from moving to collect the rent that became due during the 120-day moratorium and to take action against residents who fail to pay.