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Guidance

Extend the temporary eviction moratorium in order to protect the health and wellbeing of families during the COVID-19 pandemic

In order to protect public health during the pandemic, the CDC has implemented a moratorium to stop evictions. That moratorium is set to expire on December 31, 2020. While the stimulus bill that has been passed by the House and the Senate includes a provision to extend this moratorium, it is unclear whether that bill will become law by the end of the year. Failure to do so would  place Americans struggling to pay their rent at risk of losing their homes, exacerbating the already devastating impacts of the pandemic across the country. 

The CDC moratorium provides a critical safety net without which vulnerable Americans will be forced into homelessness or other higher-density living arrangements that are prone to more infections. The moratorium is also critical to protect mental health, child welfare, and other important health and safety measures for struggling families.  

While the federal government must act to provide much needed protection to both tenants and to landlords who may rely on their rental income, it must not allow evictions to proceed in the midst of the worst pandemic this nation has seen in a century. As such, we strongly urge the CDC to extend its eviction moratorium—and to strengthen it—for the duration of this pandemic.

Background

In an emergency people cannot help themselves. We have fire departments, police, physicians, bankruptcy courts and insurance to get through crises.

Like boarding up windows before a hurricane, finding ways to prevent social and economic damage during the pandemic will enable a much more rapid and complete recovery afterwards. 

Individuals are struggling to provide basic necessities, including food and shelter, for themselves and their families. Who will answer this need?

A moratorium on evictions by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has protected families from losing their homes. The moratorium is set to expire on December 31, 2020.

The CDC should extend its moratorium.

The long delayed stimulus bill recently passed by Congress is also designed to address some of this need, providing limited but critical financial support, and would also extend the moratorium on evictions.

Unless the CDC extends its moratorium, or the bill becomes law before the end of the year, evictions will be faced by many across the country. 

The eviction moratorium has by no means been a panacea. Drafted into the eviction ban are grey areas and exceptions, which landlords can and are using to continue filing evictions. This shouldn’t be happening. Much damage has already occurred as evictions, for reasons not related to payment, have been allowed. Tent communities have formed. People have been displaced to homeless shelters or are cramming in with friends or family.  Public health measures should prevent this from happening.

Still, the eviction moratorium protects many. 

Thousands of landlords are waiting for the moratorium to lapse, to quickly execute the removal part of the eviction process if it does. Tenants often do not have money for legal representation to protect themselves. Legal aid services have been flooded with cases. 

States and communities should fill in the gaps. An emergency calls on everyone to help. 

Another month-long extension of the moratorium will not solve the larger challenges that the pandemic has created.

Landlords who earn their livelihood on rental income and have obligations such as property taxes, mortgages, and maintenance should also be eligible for support and suspension of foreclosure. Meeting their reasonable needs should not be done through eviction of tenants.

Rental relief is essential because the moratorium does not erase the amount owed in unpaid rent, but rather delays when the back-rent amount is due. Many people who have lost their income and accrued multiple months of unpaid debt will have great difficulty recovering and future rental or lending prospects will suffer. Rental relief should be designed to make whole both the renters to provide rent forgiveness and the landlords to pay their obligations.

As with other aspects of the pandemic, evictions have had a disproportionate impact on vulnerable populations, exacerbating disparities and societal divides.

More comprehensive protections and a process to restore disrupted economic processes are needed. Still, the more we allow disruptive consequences of the pandemic, the more difficult restoring society and economic activity will become.