CDC Updates Information on Eviction Moratorium
After a lengthy delay, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) finally released its updated FAQs regarding the agency’s federal eviction moratorium order which was extended until June 30.
While the updated CDC information indicates that evictions can proceed but that no actions to physically remove the tenant can occur until after June 30, there are local government orders and ordinances that still prevail and cloud the actions that AAA member can take in the our area. For example, current orders issued by the City of Austin and Travis County prevent the issuance of the Notice to Vacate (NTV) until at least May 1, and the Travis County Justices of the Peace are not hearing most eviction cases until after May 1.
Although it is currently possible for rental property owners outside of the City of Austin and Travis County to proceed with an eviction even after a tenant provides a CDC Declaration form claiming protection from eviction, caution is urged in these cases. The AAA will host a webinar on April 26 to discuss these situations and the potential legal hazards that exists. To register for the webinar CLICK HERE.
The National Apartment Association (NAA) is developing guidance documents to clarify all of the aspects pertaining to the CDC rules. Watch this space for those documents and more information about evictions and the CDC rules.
Notable information found in the CDC’s Frequently Asked Questions document includes:
- Confirmation that the Order temporarily halts residential evictions of covered persons for nonpayment of rent during September 4, 2020, through June 30, 2021. However, the Order is not intended to terminate or suspend the operations of any state or local court. Nor is it intended to prevent housing providers from starting eviction proceedings, provided that the actual physical removal of a covered person for non-payment of rent does NOT take place during the period of the Order.
- The FAQs make clear that rent is still owed. The CDC Order does not cancel rent. Renters must still fulfill their obligation to pay rent and follow all the other terms of their lease and rules of the place where they live. Renters must use best efforts to make timely partial payments that are as close to the full payment as their individual circumstances permit, considering other nondiscretionary expenses.
- When the Order expires, consistent with the applicable landlord-tenant or real-property laws, renters still owe their housing provider any unpaid rent and any fees, penalties, or interest as a result of their failure to pay rent or make a timely housing payment during the period of the Order.
- Covered persons may use any written document in place of the declaration form if it includes the required information in the form or use a form translated into other languages. The CDC has released an updated form in English as well as translations in other commonly spoken languages.
- While housing providers maintain the ability to move forward with eviction for lawful reasons other than nonpayment of rent, individuals who are confirmed to have, have been exposed to, or might have COVID-19 and take reasonable precautions to not spread the disease should not be evicted on the ground that they may pose a health or safety threat to other residents.
- The FAQs also note that if a renter has declared that they are a covered person under the CDC Order, but the housing provider does not believe the renter actually qualifies, the Order does not preclude a housing provider from challenging the truthfulness of a renter’s declaration in any state or municipal court.
- The FAQs provide comment on whether housing providers are required to make their residents aware of the CDC order and Declaration.
- The Order itself does not require housing providers to make renters aware of the Order and Declaration. But other relevant law, for instance the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the Federal Trade Commission Act, may require “landlords, or their agents,” to do so. Under these statutes, evicting renters in violation of the CDC, state, or local moratoria, or evicting or threatening to evict them without apprising them of their legal rights under such moratoria, may violate prohibitions against deceptive and unfair practices. Housing providers must otherwise comply with all requirements of the Order. Also, even if not legally required, housing providers are encouraged to tell their residents about the Order.
- Finally, the FAQs make clear how the federal government intends to enforce the Order, including a reference to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announcement that they will step up enforcement efforts against housing providers, and that housing providers remain subject to jail time, fines and penalties for violations of the Order, both on an individual and an organizational basis.