On September 1, 2020, the Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”) issued an Agency Order entitled “Temporary Halt in Residential Evictions to Prevent the Further Spread of COVID-19,” suspending certain residential evictions through December 31, 2020. The purpose of the Order is to keep tenants in their residences to reduce crowding in shelters, and to reduce the number unsheltered homeless, as those conditions have been shown to increase the spread of COVID-19.
The Order does not affect rent or fees owed under a lease and to take advantage of the moratorium, a tenant, lessee or resident of residential property must provide their landlord with a Declaration Form attached to the Order. Notably, foreclosure on home mortgages is not covered.
The Declaration Form establishes that occupants meet the following criteria:
- The individual has used best efforts to obtain all available government assistance for rent or housing;
- The individual either (i) expects to earn no more than $99,000 in annual income for Calendar Year 2020 (or no more than $198,000 if filing a joint tax return), (ii) was not required to report any income in 2019 to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, or (iii) received an Economic Impact Payment (stimulus check) pursuant to Section 2201 of the CARES Act;
- The individual is unable to pay the full rent or make a full housing payment due to substantial loss of household income, loss of compensable hours of work or wages, a lay-off, or extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses;
- The individual is using best efforts to make timely partial payments that are as close to the full payment as the individual’s circumstances may permit, taking into account other nondiscretionary expenses; and
- Eviction would likely render the individual homeless— or force the individual to move into and live in close quarters in a new congregate or shared living setting— because the individual has no other available housing options.
While the Order suspends eviction proceedings, it does not eliminate the occupant’s obligation to pay rent or fees under their lease. Nor does the Order alleviate an occupant’s obligation to comply with all other lease terms and housing rules and expressly states that occupants “may also still be evicted for reasons other than not paying rent or making a housing payment.”
Finally, the CDC noted that the Order “does not apply in any State, local, territorial, or tribal area with a moratorium on residential evictions that provides the same or greater level of public-health protection than the requirements listed in this Order.”
In July, Governor Baker extended Massachusetts eviction moratorium until October 17, 2020. The Massachusetts moratorium does not have the same limitations or required Declaration Form but would control since it applies a greater level of protection. The CDC Order would apply in Massachusetts after October 17, 2020, unless extended by Governor Baker.