On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a temporary halt on evictions through the remainder of the year, citing the public health risks of moving people into shared living spaces or shelters.
“The ability of these settings to adhere to best practices, such as social distancing and other infection control measures, decreases as populations increase,” the CDC said in the order.
For many U.S. renters, this comes as a welcome relief—and it hopefully will alleviate some short-term financial stress. However, with complicated requirements, experts say it could be difficult to enforce.
“There will be a lot of confusion,” National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel attorney John Pollock said to CNN Business. “Tenants will have confusion about how to answer questions of eligibility. Landlords may try to preempt it or get tenants to agree to something worse.”
Vagueness aside, as a bankruptcy lawyer Memphis TN trusts, I want to remind you that a moratorium does not ultimately relieve you of paying rent. And throughout my entire career, I have never once seen serious debt resolve itself. We are facing unthinkable stress right now—individually and collectively—and no one needs any additional hardship. So even if you are eligible for the moratorium, I urge you to consider looking at long-term financial solutions during this time.
Here’s what to know about the moratorium.
Does the eviction moratorium protect me?
Anyone who meets the following requirements is eligible for the eviction moratorium.
- Cannot pay rent because of COVID-related unemployment or income loss.
- Were eligible for a CARES Act direct stimulus payment or currently anticipate earning less than $99,000 this year. (Less than $198,000 for those filing joint returns.)
- Tried to receive government support to cover rent, available for you or another member of your household.
- Can prove that you cannot pay rent because of financial challenges related to COVID, and that you’ve done your best to make partial payments on time.
- Can show that without the relief, you risk homelessness if evicted.
Be aware that there is not a straightforward application process for the moratorium. Anna Bahney of CNN Business writes, “The order puts the responsibility on the renter to ensure they meet the criteria and to provide a signed written statement to their landlord in order to invoke the protection.”
What the CDC’s order doesn’t do
The moratorium is by no means a panacea. It does NOT offer tenants or landlords rent relief payments, leading to criticism from landlords and activists alike.
“While an eviction moratorium is an essential step, it is a half-measure that extends a financial cliff for renters to fall off of when the moratorium expires and back rent is owed,” National Low Income Housing Coalition president Diane Yentel told CNN Business. “This action delays but does not prevent evictions.”
The order also does not ultimately relieve you of your burden to pay rent. It does not prevent landlords from charging penalties or interest if tenants fail to make timely payments.
Bankruptcy offers lasting protection.
With an order like this, it’s important to read the fine print. Once the moratorium expires, your landlord is empowered by law to collect the back rent all at once. And you will be vulnerable to eviction if you cannot make those payments.
A half-measure is not enough during a crisis of this scale. As a bankruptcy lawyer Memphis TN has relied on for decades, I don’t want you to be caught off guard. Know that you have options and we are here to do whatever we can to help. Bankruptcy is one avenue well worth exploring.