Navigating the Eviction Moratorium: What Renters Need to Know.

Demonstrators hold signs during an “Eviction Moratorium Extension” rally in the Brooklyn, New York, on Aug. 19. (Paul Frangipane/Bloomberg News) Photo Source: Demonstrators hold signs during an “Eviction Moratorium Extension” rally in the Brooklyn, New York, on Aug. 19. (Paul Frangipane/Bloomberg News via The Washington Post)

Following the expiration of the eviction moratorium on July 31, the CDC under President Biden instated a new moratorium to help keep renters in their homes. Unlike the previous ban on evictions, this new moratorium will be more targeted, limiting the number of people who will be protected.

Who Is Protected Under the New Eviction Moratorium?

The CDC announced that the new moratorium, which will extend bans on eviction until October 3rd, will apply to individuals who live in parts of the country that have “high” or “substantial” COVID-19 transmission rates. As the more contagious delta variant of the virus continues to spread, over 80% of U.S. counties fall under the CDC’s description of “substantial” transmission.

In addition to living in an area with high transmission rates, renters must still meet the following conditions to be protected under the moratorium:

  • The renter has tried to obtain governmental assistance for their rent payment.
  • The renter earned no more than $99,000, or $198,000 if filing jointly, in 2020 or does not expect to exceed that amount in 2021.
  • A loss of household income or out-of-pocket medical expenses has impacted the renter’s ability to pay their rent in full.
  • An eviction would result in homelessness or would force a renter and their family into a shared living setting.

In addition to the CDC moratorium, individual states can enact their own eviction moratoriums, and many have chosen to do so. According to real estate attorney Andrew Smith, a partner at Pluymert, MacDonald, Hargrove & Lee, Ltd. in Illinois, these moratoriums prevent the local police agency responsible for enforcing court orders, typically the sheriff, from enforcing eviction orders. “In Illinois,” he says, “the courts can grant eviction orders, but the county sheriffs will not enforce them in light of the moratorium order from the governor.

Rental Assistance Can Help Tenants Get Current

In addition to being covered by the moratorium, some renters may be eligible for financial assistance through the Emergency Rental Assistance Programs (ERAs). These programs have nearly $50 billion allocated to help tenants pay their rent and utilities.

To qualify, renters must meet the following conditions:

● Must have a household income that does not exceed 80% of the median income for the area in which you live.

● Must include at least one member who risks becoming homeless without assistance.

● At least one member of the household must qualify for unemployment benefits or have experienced financial hardship due either directly or indirectly to the pandemic.

Priority for the assistance is given to those with the most pressing financial hardship. This includes households where the income does not exceed 50% of the area median income and households with members currently unemployed or who have been out of a job for 90 days or more. The money received through the program is not taxed.

What Renters Need to Know

The first step for renters is to determine whether or not they live in an area with “high” transmission rates. The CDC’s Data Tracker can help individuals find their county to determine transmission levels.

According to the CDC, if a county does not have “high” levels of transmission, the moratorium will not cover them, but once the county hits that level, they are covered until October 3. Consecutively, counties that exit a “high” level of transmission and hold that status for 14 consecutive days will no longer be covered by the moratorium.

In order for a renter to apply for rent relief, they must provide a written declaration provided by the CDC to their landlord. The declaration details why an individual is unable to make their rent payments. Individuals who have already submitted declarations will remain covered according to the CDC.

In Illinois the courts can grant eviction orders, but the county sheriffs will not enforce them in light of the moratorium order from the governor.
— Andrew Smith, Real Estate Attorney

The declaration for rent relief does not absolve a renter from their rental debt. It stipulates that renters will still be required to pay their rent and any back rent that is owed. With this responsibility, renters will still need to show up to court if they receive a formal notice asking them to do so.

The moratorium can only halt evictions for non-payment of rent if the conditions are met. Renters can still be evicted for other infractions including criminal conduct, becoming a nuisance, or violating other terms of the lease contract.

How Renters Can Seek Rent Relief Aid

The extension of the moratorium has been put in place to give renters the extra time to access and secure the funds provided by the ERA Programs. The main hurdle renters have been facing with accessing funds has been the confusion of where to go to get the funds.

This is largely due to the reality that the federal government has left the process by which funds are distributed up to state and local leaders. Because each locality operates differently, renters have had a difficult time knowing where to go for assistance, what applications to fill out, and how to communicate with their landlords.

For example, attorney Smith points to a policy enacted by the Illinois Supreme Court to help landlords and tenants utilize state and federal funds appropriated for rental assistance. While Illinois has not experienced significant delays in that process so far, Smith cautions that as more cases arise after the moratoriums expire, any delays will likely worsen. “Landlords and tenants should be considering and exploring their options now,” he says, “rather than waiting for the moratoriums to expire.”

Landlords and tenants should be considering and exploring their options now rather than waiting for the moratoriums to expire..
— Andrew Smith, Real Estate Attorney

Whether or not landlords can direct you to different programs, renters are encouraged to contact the Treasury ERA Programs by dialing 2-1-1. Renters should also contact their area’s local housing authority for additional guidance on available programs.

The National Housing Law Project is another resource that can connect renters with different state and local rental assistance programs.

Government leaders urge tenants to take the necessary steps to stay in their homes by first having a conversation with their landlords. This starts by giving landlords a signed declaration. Housing advocates urge that this declaration be sent via certified mail so that there is a receipt that the letter was sent and signed for.

Tenants are also urged to show their landlord proof of hardship even though the CDC order does not require this. Landlords still have the right to push back on a renter’s declarative statement, and having documentation that shows lack of employment due to the pandemic and other hardships can help strengthen your case.

Open communication with your landlord is key because landlords may have the needed information to help direct their tenants to seek out the funding. Open communication is also effective for encouraging landlords to extend payment deadlines. Different states have different funding programs in place, and landlords may be able to connect you to the proper programs.

Nadia El-Yaouti
Nadia El-Yaouti
Nadia El-Yaouti is a postgraduate at James Madison University where she studied English and Education. She lives in Central Virginia with her husband and two little girls. Although she considers herself a workaholic, when she’s not juggling work, you can be sure to find her traveling the world with her little family.
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