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Evictions have officially been halted across the US. Find out if you qualify.

The Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have ordered a moratorium period on rent until the end of this year.

Evictions have officially been halted across the US. Find out if you qualify.
Image Source: Getty Images /Housing Activists Hold Protest Against Forceful Evictions By Law Enforcement. (Photo by Michael M Santiago)

In an order issued by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, forced evictions have been temporarily halted as a public health measure, CNN reports. The order protects most renters in the United States through the end of the year. Evictions, the CDC claimed, threaten to increase the spread of Coronavirus, mostly because they force individuals to move (usually from one state to another) or give them no option but to move into shared living situations or group settings such as homeless shelters. The ability for these settings to implement social distancing and other infection control measures is weakened as more and more people move into them. John Pollock, an attorney and coordinator of the National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel, said there will be "a lot of confusion" about the moratorium period on evictions. With that in mind, here is how to find out if you are eligible under the newly-issued order from the CDC.



1. Are you protected?

If you are currently a renter (whether that is in an apartment, house, or mobile home), you are eligible for the eviction moratorium until December 31 of this year. However, you must meet the four following requirements: you find yourself unable to pay your rent owing to a Coronavirus-related job loss or income reduction; as per the CARES Act, qualified for a direct stimulus payment, or alternatively, you expect to earn less than $99,000 in 2020, or $198,000 if filing a joint tax return; you have made a viable effort to attain some form of available government assistance to cover your rent (available to either you or a member of the same household); you can evidence that your inability to pay is a result of financial hardship because of the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, that you have tried your best to at least make partial payments on time, and that you are likely to become homeless if you were handed an eviction.



2. How can you apply?

You will not automatically be "approved" for the moratorium period. The HHS Department and CDC place on the renter the onus of ensuring they meet the criteria and providing a signed written statement to their landlord in order to invoke the moratorium. This means each adult on a signed lease must issue a statement (the CDC does, nonetheless, provide a statement form in its order. The order is expected to be published on Friday in the Federal Register.) This statement will be considered a sworn testimony, thereby, if you leave out important information or lie, you could be liable for prosecution, jail time, or a fine. Once you present your statement to your landlord, they have the ability to deny receiving it or even allege that it does not meet one of the requirements. It is suggested therefore that you keep a copy of the statement and any evidence of having presented it to your landlord.



3. Will you receive money for rent?

The short answer is no. As per the CDC's order, neither tenants nor landlords are entitled to any rent relief payments or assistance to pay the back rent. Some critics of the order, mostly tenants' rights advocates and landlords, have claimed that the order thus does not go far enough. Diane Yentel, president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, stated, "While an eviction moratorium is an essential step, it is a half-measure that extends a financial cliff for renters to fall off of when the moratorium expires and back rent is owed. This action delays but does not prevent evictions."



4. Is your rent canceled?

Again, no. The order does not relieve you of paying your rent. It also does not mean your landlord cannot collect fees, penalties, or interest as a result of your failure to pay rent. You will still be expected to pay back the full amount of rent accrued during the moratorium period, and some landlords may demand that you pay this amount as a lump sum. This has yet again been criticized by tenants' rights advocates—in addition to allowing your landlord to collect a lump sum at the end of the moratorium period, the order permits them to evict you after the period ends if you are not able to repay your back rent as they require.

Pollock stated, "This underscores the point that there is no solution without rent relief. This order doesn't alter rent obligation, but what are we expecting is going to happen when all that back rent is due in January?" Some renters may be luckier than others; in a few jurisdictions, tenant protections might be more effective than what is offered in the CDC's order. Nonetheless, if you are currently struggling with making rent payments, Pollock suggests getting in touch as soon as possible with a local legal aid organization. They are likely to help you better understand how your rights as a tenant can best be protected.



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