The U.S. Centers for Disease Control is trying to stem the tide of evictions resulting from lost wages due to COVID-19, but the relief for many will only be temporary.
Last week, the health agency released an order temporarily halting evictions nationwide to keep residents in their homes during the ongoing pandemic. The order, which is valid through the end of 2020, will give residents who meet certain income requirements and who have sought assistance to delay being removed from their homes through the courts.
However, this is not rent forgiveness. Tenants will still be required to pay rent, either full or partial payments, to try and meet their obligations to the property owner. If they don’t make those payments, they can be evicted in January 2021. Those looking to be protected from eviction will also have to fill out paperwork to determine their eligibility.
The order said the eviction moratorium will help prevent the spread of COVID-19 because it would force renters to move into situations they could not social distance as well. This includes cramped housing with friends and relatives and homeless shelters.
“Evicted renters must move, which leads to multiple outcomes that increase the risk of COVID-19 spread,” the order said. “Specifically, many evicted renters move into close quarters in shared housing or other congregate settings.”
To be eligible, tenants must:
- Have used “best efforts” to obtain government assistance to pay for rent and housing
- Earn no more than $99,000 annually, not required to report any income to the IRS or received a stimulus check
- Plan to use their “best efforts” to make payments to their landlord to make up for what they owe
- Be unable to pay for their full rent or housing apartment because of a loss of work or “extraordinary” medical expenses
- Must still pay any late fees or penalties
- Agree their landlord has the ability to demand payment in full at the end of the year
Local nonprofit uncertain
Ali Rabe, executive director of eviction prevention nonprofit Jesse Tree, called the order “a half measure.”
“What I’m concerned about is folks not paying their rent and when this is all over landlords can still take them to small claims court and their wages will be garnished,” she said. “People should still pay their rent if they can, because otherwise it’s going to come back around and bite them in January.”
She likened the order to the pause on evictions in Idaho during March and April when the courts were closed due to the stay-at-home order. When the courts reopened at the beginning of May, evictions resumed.
Even with the order issued, Rabe said she is not sure how local courts will react or how things will change in Idaho. She said this week 30 evictions were scheduled around Idaho and her nonprofit is still working to assist people through the process.
A call to Ada County’s Fifth District Court, which is the only court system in the state with mediation for those under threat of eviction, about the order was not returned this week.