On September 4, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published an Agency Order for a Temporary Halt in Residential Evictions to Prevent the Further Spread of COVID-19. This order is issued under Section 361 of the Public Health Service Act and applies to all residential rental properties in the United States.
The virus that causes COVID-19 spreads very easily and sustainably between people who are in close contact with one another (within about six feet), mainly through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks.
COVID-19 presents a historic threat to public health. In response to this threat, Federal, state, and local governments have taken unprecedented actions, including border closures, restrictions on travel, stay-at-home orders, mask requirements, and eviction moratoria. Despite these efforts, COVID-19 continues to spread and the CDC believes that more aggressive action is needed.
Eviction moratoria facilitate self-isolation by people who become ill or who are at risk for severe illness from COVID-19 due to an underlying medical condition. They also allow State and local authorities to more easily implement stay-at-home and social distancing directives to mitigate community spread of COVID-19. Such moratoria also reduce homelessness by limiting the number of persons that will be forced into homeless shelters or other congregate settings.
Applicability of the Order
Under this Order, a landlord, owner of a residential property, or another person with a legal right to pursue eviction or similar action, shall not evict any covered person from any residential property in any jurisdiction to which the order applies. This order does not apply to any jurisdiction with a moratorium on residential evictions that provides the same or greater level of public-health protection than the requirements provided in this Order. The Order also does not apply to American Samoa, which has reported no cases of COVID-19.
The Order is a temporary eviction moratorium and does not relieve any individual of any obligation to pay rent, make a housing payment, or comply with any other obligation that the individual may have under a tenancy, lease, or similar agreement. The order also does not preclude landlords from collecting fees, penalties, or interest as a result of the failure to pay rent or other housing payments when due.
The order does not include foreclosure on a home mortgage, nor does it include hotels, motels, or other guest house rented to a temporary guest or seasonal tenant.
Renter’s or Homeowner’s Declaration
The Order includes an attachment (“Declaration Form”) that tenants, lessees, or residents of residential properties who are covered by the CDC’s Order may use to claim the protection. To invoke the CDC’s order these persons must provide an executed copy of the Declaration form (or a similar declaration under penalty of perjury) to their landlord. Each adult listed on the lease must complete a declaration.
This order is in effect – unless extended – through December 31, 2020.
Tenants may be evicted for reasons other than payment of rent or making a housing payment.
In order to avail themselves of this protection, residents must provide a declaration under penalty of perjury indicating that:
- The individual has used best efforts to obtain all available government assistance for rent or housing;
- The individual either (i) expects to earn no more than $99,000 in annual income for calendar year 2020 (or no more than $198,000 if filing a joint tax return), (ii) was not required to report any income in 2019 to the IRS, or (iii) received an Economic Impact Payment (stimulus check) pursuant to the CARES Act.
- The individual is unable to pay the full rent or housing payment due to substantial loss of income, loss of compensable hours of work or wages, a lay-off, or extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses;
- The individual is using best efforts to make timely partial payments that are as close to the full payment as the individual’s circumstances permit, taking into account other nondiscretionary expenses; and
- Eviction would likely render the individual homeless – or force the individual to move into and live in close quarters in a new congregate or shared living setting – because the individual has no other available housing options.
This Order goes well beyond the eviction moratorium under the CARES Act, which only protected renters living in federally assisted properties, and increases the number of protected persons by 30-40 million.
Under 18 U.S.C. 3559, 3571; 42 U.S.C. 271; and 42 CFR 70.18, a person violating this order may be subject to a fine of no more than $100,000 if the violation does not result in death or one year in jail, or both, or a fine of no more than $250,000 if the violation results in a death or one year in jail, or both, or as otherwise provided by law. An organization violating this order may be subject to a fine of no more than $200,000 per event if the violation does not result in death or $500,000 per event if the violation results in death.
This Order applies to all landlords – not just those with some type of federal assistance at their property. While the order does not waive or forgive in any way rent that may be owed, or the collection of any fees relating to that rent, it also provides no relief to landlords relative to cash flow shortfalls as the result of the failure of residents to pay rent. For this reason, landlords should familiarize themselves with any local, State, or Federal assistance that may help in offsetting the loss of income due to non-payment of rent.
Also, landlords are not required to inform residents of this Order, nor are they required to inform residents of the steps that must be taken in order to request the relief afforded by this Order. Finally, residents are not entitled to the relief granted by this Order unless they provide the Declaration of need, as outlined in the Order.