As of Tuesday evening, September 1, 2020, the Trump administration acting through the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) has halted the evictions of “consumers earning no more than $99,000 a year”. A senior administration official told Bloomberg reporters the move would “prevent the virus from spreading” and that the decision was in response to Congressional failure to extend the eviction moratorium that ended at the end of July.
According to administration officials and a White House lawyer who requested he not be identified the CDC Director has the authority to take measures the agency “deems reasonably necessary to prevent the spread of communicable diseases.” White House spokesman Brian Morganstern said in his public statement:
President Trump is committed to helping hardworking Americans stay in their homes and combating the spread of the coronavirus. Today’s announcement from his administration means that people struggling to pay rent due to coronavirus will not have to worry about being evicted and risk further spreading of or exposure to the disease due to economic hardship.
White House officials said the administration had made stimulus funds available to help offset the impact of the order on landlords and property owners. There are more than 8 million individual landlords currently operating rentals in the United States. At time of publication, the specific nature of the assistance was unclear, although the administration said landlords would have access to “billions of dollars in grants…and the $142 billion coronavirus relief fund from the Treasury Department.” Many landlord and investor advocates say the moratorium will face legal challenges.
Details Come from an Unpublished Memo Scheduled for Publication 09/04
Most of the available details about the eviction ban, which took place immediately, the CDC plans to keep the moratorium in effect until December 31, 2020. It reads in part:
… To respond to this public health threat [COVID-19], the Federal, State, and local governments have taken unprecedented or exceedingly rare actions, including border closures, restrictions on travel, stay-at-home orders, mask requirements, and eviction moratoria. Despite these best efforts, COVID-19 continues to spread and further action is needed.
In the context of a pandemic, eviction moratoria – like quarantine, isolation, and social distancing – can be an effective public health measure utilized to prevent the spread of communicable disease.
The order prohibits any landlord, owner of a residential property, or other person with a legal right to pursue eviction or possessory action, shall not evict any covered person from a residential property in any jurisdiction to which this order applies during the affective period of the order. It also defers to higher and more restrictive levels of public-health protections enacted by states or other governments, and does not apply to American Samoa, which has reported no cases of COVID-19. However, it will go into effect there if cases are reported.
The order also states:
This order is a temporary eviction moratorium to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. This order 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 contract. Nothing in this order precludes the charging or collecting of fees, penalties, or interest as a result of the failure to pay rent or other housing payment on a timely basis under the terms of any applicable contract.
In order to qualify for the eviction moratorium, residents requesting coverage must provide an executed copy of the declaration form provided by the CDC that indicates their eligibility. Individuals who received stimulus money, unemployment benefits, and other financial assistance associated with COVID-19 may be eligible for the moratorium. Residents may still be evicted for other violations of their leases not related to nonpayment. Residents may be convicted of perjury if facts emerge indicating they were earning more than $99,000 annually (if they are single) or $198,000 (if filing jointly), were able to make full rent, did not make a “best effort” to make timely, partial payments, and/or would not have been in danger of homelessness or living in close quarters with someone else.
The moratorium does not absolve renters from paying rent. Landlords are still due money and may attempt to collect in the future.
Unpublished CDC Agency Order (scheduled for publication 09.04.2020)