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Resident Q&A: CDC Announces Order to Temporarily Halt Residential Evictions to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19

(September 8, 2020) 

By: Howard M. Bookstaff, General Counsel

On September 4, 2020, the CDC issued an Order under the Public Health Service Act to temporarily halt residential evictions to prevent the further spread of COVID-19.  The Order is published in the Federal Register and available online and on govinfo.gov through December 31, 2020. 

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Is the Order an eviction moratorium for all residents? 

No.  To invoke the temporary halt on evictions, the resident must be a "covered person" and provide the appropriate declaration meeting certain requirements. 

What is required to be stated in the declaration?

Under the CDC's order, you must provide a copy of a declaration to your landlord.  Each adult listed on the lease should complete the declaration. 

The declaration must certify under penalty of perjury that the foregoing are true and correct:

  1. I have used best efforts to obtain all available government assistance for rent or housing;  
  2. I either expect 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), was not required to report any income in 2019 to the IRS, or received an Economic Impact Payment (stimulus check) pursuant to the CARES Act; 
  3. I am 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; 
  4. 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; and 
  5. 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. 
  6. I understand that I must still pay rent and comply with other obligations I have under the lease and I understand that fees, penalties, or interest for not paying rent on time as required by the lease may still be charged or collected; and 
  7. I further understand that at the end of the temporary halt on evictions on December 31, 2020, 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.  

What does "under penalty of perjury" mean?  

Pursuant to the Order, the declaration is sworn testimony, meaning that you can be prosecuted, go to jail, or pay a fine if you lie, mislead, or omit important information. 

How do I get a copy of the declaration?

There is a form declaration attached to the Order, which can be accessed through the website identified above. 

Does the Order relieve me from the obligation to pay rent?

No.  The Order does not relieve a resident of any obligation to pay rent or comply with any other obligation that the resident may have under a lease.  Additionally, nothing in the Order precludes the charging or collecting of fees, penalties, or interest as a result of the failure to pay rent on a timely basis under the terms of any applicable contract.

Can I still be evicted for a nonmonetary default even if I provide my landlord with a declaration?

Yes. Nothing in the Order precludes evictions based on the resident:

  1. engaging in criminal activity while on the premises;
  2. threatening the health or safety of other residents;
  3. damaging or posing an immediate and significant risk of damage to property;
  4. violating any applicable building code, health ordinance, or similar regulation relating to health and safety; or
  5. violating any other contractual obligation, other than the timely payment of rent or similar housing-related payment (including non-payment or late payment of fees, penalties, or interest). 

Will the Order prevent my eviction if I provide a declaration to my landlord?

 No.  The Order only temporarily halts the eviction process.  In the declaration, you are expected to certify that you understand that at the end of the temporary halt on eviction on December 31, 2020, your landlord may require payment in full of all payments not made prior to and during the temporary halt and failure to pay may make you subject to eviction pursuant to State and local laws. 

Should I invoke the CDC order if I am qualified?

Whether you provide the required declaration to your landlord is up to you.  If you do not qualify, you should not certify under penalty of perjury something that is not true.  If qualified, the CDC order allows you to provide the declaration, but be mindful that rent and other charges under your lease are not forgiven and you are still susceptible to being evicted when the temporary halt is over.