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On September 1, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), issued a sweeping order protecting cash-strapped tenants from being evicted for unpaid rent. Effective immediately, the order seeks to cover families experiencing financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and may potentially provide relief to over 40 million U.S. renters, provided they meet certain eligibility requirements.

Who is protected?

The moratorium will apply to tenants who can certify that they:

  • were eligible to receive an Economic Impact Payment (stimulus check) under the CARES Act, or have annual income of no more than $99,000 for an individual, or $198,000 if filed jointly;
  • are not able to pay the full rent due to substantial loss of income, wages, or hours, or because of extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses;
  • have used their best efforts to obtain government assistance to make rent payments; and
  • have no other available housing options and, if evicted, would be forced to live in close quarters with other people, or would have to move into a homeless shelter.

What is not covered?

  • This is not a rent forgiveness program. When the moratorium expires on December 31, 2020, tenants who have received protection will still have to pay accrued arrears or any missed payments. Tenants will also have to ensure compliance with all other lease obligations.
  • The order does not prohibit landlords and property owners from charging interests and late fees.
  • The order defers to state and/or local policies with more generous tenant protections. In New York, for example, the Governor’s moratorium extends the protections afforded by Judge Lawrence’s Administrative Order beyond its expected October 1 expiration.

The CDC has described the moratorium as a measure designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and noted that, “housing stability helps protect public health because homelessness increases the likelihood of individuals moving into close quarters in congregate settings, such as homeless shelters, which then puts individuals at higher risk to COVID-19.”

Ever since the pandemic hit U.S. shores, tenant advocates warned that the crisis could result in mass evictions, forcing many Americans out of their homes and into crowded shelters, further accelerating the spread of the virus. This latest CDC order appears to have acquiesced to those concerns; at least for now.

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DISCLAIMER: As COVID-19 related developments change daily, this must be viewed as an exceptionally fluid situation. Accordingly, prior to taking any action, we strongly urge you to contact our office to ascertain whether there has been any change that would impact any recommendations made, or whether there are discrete facts or developments which would warrant undertaking a different tact or course.