Centers for Disease Control extends eviction moratorium

Feature image: David Jackmanson Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

On March 29, Centers for Disease Control finally extended its moratorium on evictions for non-payment of rent from March 31 to June 30, 2021. The extension of the moratorium gives the opportunity for millions of renters across the United States to access approximately $46 billion in federal assistance programs that pay up to 12 months of rent for families who fell behind as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The late extension came after 2000 housing and tenants rights groups joined together to demand that Biden and the CDC put the extension into effect to avoid an even more cataclysmic rental tsunami.

The CDC memorandum extending the moratorium gives a graphic picture of the health consequences of evictions during a pandemic. The moratorium applies to any renters subject to eviction for non-payment since Sept. 4, 2020, even if eviction judgments were entered against them.

The CDC document points out that it is estimated that the federal and state eviction moratoriums declared since the pandemic began are estimated to have saved 1 million families from being evicted. There are at least 100,000 more families who have been subjected to eviction filings since September of last year and faced immediate expulsion if the moratorium had not been renewed. In early March, the Census Household study estimated that 4 million families are behind on their rents and living in fear of imminent eviction and homelessness.

The CDC moratorium has been rightfully criticized for falling short of the cancellation of rents that is needed. It is limited to evictions for non-payment while allowing evictions for all sorts of other reasons including termination of a lease. However, its impact should not be underestimated. It is a tool that tenants and tenant organizers can invoke to fight to keep people in their homes.

Most renters and especially poor people do not have easy access to the CDC declaration invoking the moratorium described below. When organizing tenants, activists can help families fill out the declaration and turn it over to the landlord, while informing tenants of legal assistance that can potentially represent them in court procedures.

Of course, the key is to give the moratorium life through direct action, stopping the many illegal evictions that predominate in oppressed communities But the moratorium lends an air of legality to the militant action that must be central to the fight. It should be noted that in the 1930s Great Depression, 25 states implemented foreclosure and eviction moratoriums, some of which lasted for the duration of the Depression. They were put into effect by the unemployed councils, which moved families facing eviction or foreclosures back into their homes. The movement was so strong the U.S. Supreme Court was forced to declare, in the still good case of Home Building & Loan Association v Blaisdel, that in a period of emergency the right to survive supersedes the contract clause of the Constitution.

To invoke the CDC moratorium, renters must fill out a declaration and present it to the landlord. The declaration must provide:

  • I am unable to pay my full rent or make a full housing payment due to substantial loss of household income, loss of compensable hours of work or wages, lay-offs or extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses (defined as unreimbursed medical expense likely to exceed 7.5% of adjusted gross income);
  • I am 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;
  • If evicted I would likely become homeless, need to move into a homeless shelter or need to move into a new residence shared by other people who live in close quarters because I have no other available housing options;
  • I understand that I must still pay rent or make a housing payment, and comply with other obligations that I may have under my tenancy, lease agreement or similar contract;
  • I further understand that fees, penalties or interest for not paying rent or making a housing payment on time as required by my tenancy, lease agreement or similar contract may still be charged or collected;
  • I further understand that at the end of this temporary halt on evictions my housing provider may require payment in full for all payments not made prior to and during the temporary halt and failure to pay may make me subject to eviction pursuant to state and local laws.

The declaration can be downloaded here.

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