A moratorium is a temporary freeze on an activity by the government or a regulator, the freeze would be lifted once the prevailing condition dissipates. It follows that an eviction moratorium would then mean a halt on evictions. Due to the novel Coronavirus epidemic, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky signed a moratorium barring eviction of tenants.
The freeze on eviction was to combat the spread of the virus. The ban ensured that any tenants would not be evicted during the moratorium. It is important to highlight that the moratorium should not be confused with rent forgiveness, it was just a temporary pause on evictions to avert further spread of the virus and also forcing people who have nowhere to go to off their only abodes. The landlord and the tenant can discuss how to restructure the payments.
Eviction moratorium extension
An eviction ban affects the relationship between a tenant and a landlord, as tenants are expected to pay rent for their relationship to subsist. Failure to pay rent would lead to a termination of the relationship and a termination would be an appropriate remedy. However, during a moratorium, a landlord cannot evict their tenants. Initially, the moratorium was set to run from September 4, 2020, through to December 31, 2020. This has since changed, upon the inauguration of President Biden he further extended the moratorium to March 31, 2021.
Who is eligible?
- Individuals who made less than $99,000 or a family household that made less than $198,000
- Individuals who received Economic Impact Payment (stimulus checks)
- Persons who have made lost their jobs or have incurred huge medical costs • Persons who would be homeless if evicted
- A willingness to continue paying rent
The criteria above are not exhaustive, but they paint a picture as to persons who would be covered within the moratorium. When one fits the requirements, they are expected to download, read and sign the CDC declaration form and forward the same to the landlord. The form has a perjury warning, therefore, if one makes false declarations, they would be liable for perjury punishment.
The declaration is also meant to ensure that persons who have the ability of paying their rent continue doing so. The landlords therefore can restructure their payment plans with their tenants. They can insist on the payment of all the accrued rent at the lapse of the moratorium, if they solely survived on rental income, they could check if they are eligible to attain rental relief.
Challenges affecting the moratorium
Despite the moratorium, there are landlords who have found loopholes to subvert the freeze. Some landlords have been issuing eviction notices under the guise that they want to renovate the house. Even though this is permissible under the laws, it is a cunning way to enforce evictions.
The interpretation of the moratorium has also led to a lot of confusion. For example a judge in North Carolina felt that the moratorium was a continuation of a previous freeze that had been lodged under the CARES Act. Therefore, the judge held that the moratorium did not apply in respect of the tenant.
The eviction moratorium was intended to ensure that renters are not unnecessarily evicted and to combat Coronavirus. It was never an opportunity to disenfranchise landlords from their rent. That said, the moratorium bars landlords from being overzealous in cracking down on rent defaulters, violation of the moratorium may lead to imposition of fines up to $500,000.