By: Steven M. Williams and James McNally
On September 4, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced a temporary halt to residential evictions as an emergency order to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. The order is effective from September 4 through December 31, but it could be extended.
Earlier this year, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which included, among other things, a 120-day moratorium on eviction filings that ended on July 24. The protections in the CARES Act supplemented eviction moratoria implemented by governors and local officials using emergency powers. In Pennsylvania, Governor Wolf also issued an emergency eviction moratorium, which was subsequently extended until August 31, 2020. However, Governor Wolf recently concluded that he did not have the legal authority to issue any further extensions, so Pennsylvania’s eviction moratorium expired. The CDC’s order will provide some additional eviction protection to residential tenants who meet certain requirements.
The order is intended to apply to vulnerable individuals and provide additional relief for residential tenants. However, it does not apply to everyone, nor does it relieve tenants of their contractual responsibilities or preclude landlords from charging or collecting fees, penalties, or interest. The order is not self-effectuating, and tenants have the initial onus under the order. To invoke the protections, a tenant must submit to his/her landlord a completed form declaration (under penalty of perjury) indicating that the individual:
- Has used best efforts to obtain all available government assistance for rent
- (i) Expects to earn no more than $99,000 in annual income in 2020 (or no more than $198,000 if filing jointly)
- (ii) Was not required to report any income in 2019 to the IRS; or
- (iii) Received a stimulus check pursuant to the CARES Act
- Is unable to pay the full rent or make a full housing payment due to substantial loss of household income, loss of compensable hours of work or wages, a lay-off or extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses
- Is using best efforts to make partial payments; and
- That 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.
If a tenant submits a completed declaration to his/her landlord, the landlord is prohibited from evicting the tenant. However, and importantly, a tenant may still be evicted for reasons other than not paying or making a housing payment. For example, unlike Governor Wolf’s recently expired eviction moratorium, the order does not appear to provide any relief for holdover tenants who attempt to remain after the lease term’s expiration. Importantly, the order allows for the imposition of criminal penalties and fines for any person or organization who violates the order. So even if a tenant submits a suspect or questionable declaration, the landlord should proceed with the utmost caution. Alternatively, if a tenant is in default under the lease for failure to pay rent and has not submitted a completed declaration, the landlord may proceed to enforce its contractual and legal rights and remedies.
For more information about the CDC’s order and its impact on your business or any particular matter, contact Steve Williams at (717) 234-5530 or email@example.com, or James McNally at (412) 434-5530 or firstname.lastname@example.org.