Citing concerns about the effects that widespread evictions might have on the spread of the coronavirus, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has extended the federal eviction moratorium until December 31, 2020. In effect, this means that all evictions across the country, including in New York, must halt until the end of the year. However, this extension is not automatic, and tenants will need to advocate for themselves to avoid being evicted from their homes.
What is the federal eviction moratorium?
The federal moratorium on evictions was originally implemented as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which was passed in March this year. This moratorium did not end people’s rent obligations, but instead made it illegal to evict people for the duration of the moratorium. Initially, the moratorium was intended to end on July 24, 2020 but has since been extended multiple times, most recently on September 1, 2020.
Why a moratorium on evictions?
The purpose of this moratorium is to prevent people from being forced out onto the streets or being forced into homeless shelters, which are often crowded and have a high risk of transmitting the coronavirus. However, landlords have complained about the moratorium, as they did not receive any financial aid to compensate them for lost income from rent that was not paid during the pandemic. Tenant advocates, on the other hand, see the moratorium as a stopgap measure that fails to address the fact that tenants are still liable for missed rent, even if they may not have a job due to the COVID-19 restrictions and layoffs. Many unemployed tenants have also stopped receiving the additional unemployment benefits which was used to help pay rent.
How do you take advantage of the moratorium?
The eviction protection offered by the federal moratorium is not automatic. To take advantage of its benefits, a tenant facing eviction must submit a declaration to their landlord that they have lost income due to the coronavirus pandemic, have attempted to pay as much rent as possible, and have sought financial assistance, but that they cannot pay their rent. This protection is also only available to individuals making less than $99,000 a year (or $198,000 a year for a jointly filed couple), meaning not every person who may be facing eviction will be protected by the moratorium.
Additionally, it is important to understand that the federal rent moratorium does not exempt people from the requirement to pay rent. It also does not protect tenants from late fees, or from eviction for reasons unrelated to economic circumstances, such as for violating the terms of a lease agreement. It merely means that a landlord cannot legally remove a tenant from the premises purely because they were unable to pay their rent, at least until the moratorium expires.
State vs. federal law
This federal moratorium, incidentally, is separate from the New York State moratorium, which is currently set to end on October 1. New York residents will benefit from both, meaning they cannot be evicted from their homes until at least October 1, even if they cannot qualify for the protections offered by the federal moratorium. However, any tenant who is potentially facing eviction in October who wants to avoid eviction should seek legal counsel to protect themselves from the risk of homelessness.
If you are at risk of being evicted and want to know more about protecting yourself from homelessness, do not wait until it is too late. You should seek advice from an attorney experienced in handling landlord/tenant disputes, who can advise you on your rights and help you avoid the risk of eviction. Contact the skilled landlord-tenant attorneys at Hobson-Williams, P.C. Contact us online, toll-free (866) 825-1529 or (718) 210-4744 to discuss your rights and the solutions available to you.