Q: Does the CDC’s Extension of the Eviction Moratorium Mean No One Is Being Evicted Now?
A: Unfortunately, no.
On March 29, the Biden administration extended the CDC’s eviction moratorium until June 30. It also announced an education campaign to help renters avoid eviction and said that the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau and Federal Trade Commission would take on enforcement. However, the order itself remains unchanged.
Extending the eviction moratorium while rental relief is being rolled out is extremely important. It will take a long time for those funds to be fully disbursed, and without a strong moratorium that aid won’t reach many households before the tenants’ housing court dates.
Nonetheless, even with the moratorium in place, there have been and will continue to be many, many Americans who lose their homes. In North Carolina, for example, only 3 percent of 71,000 eviction cases have been denied by judges while moratoriums were in place. The Private Equity Stakeholder Project has documented soaring numbers of evictions filed since the end of 2020 by corporate landlords. Why isn’t the moratorium preventing these and other evictions?
Here are 6 reasons:
- To be protected, the CDC moratorium requires that tenants make a legal declaration to their landlords indicating that they have lost income during the pandemic or have extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses and would be homeless if evicted. Landlords are not required to notify their tenants about this, so many tenants don’t know to exercise their rights to be covered by the moratorium.
- The moratorium only stops the actual physical removal from the home—many tenants are still experiencing the earlier steps of eviction, such as receiving notice, attending a hearing, or getting a judgment. Many tenants leave as soon as they get notice.
- Nonbinding guidance from the previous administration provided that landlords could file cases and even challenge the validity of a tenant’s declaration in court. As a result, judges have invalidated the declarations of some tenants who have had difficulty gathering proof of housing insecurity or income loss. Many others are afraid of possible legal consequences, like perjury penalties, for making the declaration in the first place. This guidance has yet to be rescinded.
- Only a fraction of governors and state supreme courts have issued orders interpreting and adopting the moratorium in the state. Only seven states require that landlords verify they have not received a declaration from the tenant prior to filing. In all other states, housing courts are under no obligation to ask landlords if they have received a declaration before allowing an eviction to proceed, let alone make landlords state under oath that they haven’t.
- Some judges agree with a landlord lawsuit that claims the moratorium is unconstitutional, and are allowing eviction cases that would be halted by the moratorium to proceed for plaintiffs while the landlord cases make their way through the courts.
- Some landlords are harassing tenants they cannot legally evict until the tenants feel they need to leave, or they are performing illegal “self-help” evictions (in other words, just locking tenants out of their homes).
- Though the CDC’s moratorium is not limited to nonpayment-of-rent cases, some other local moratoriums were, and some judges are allowing evictions for other reasons, such as the end of the lease term or manufactured minor lease violations or owner-move-in plans.
And, of course, even if all of these issues were addressed, any moratorium will be temporary and will not prevent evictions in the end without sufficient, equitable rental assistance or rent forgiveness.
To learn more about how the CDC moratorium should be improved, and the housing court system reformed going forward, check out our interview with Emily Benfer.
Correction: The article originally misstated what types of eviction cases the CDC’s moratorium covers—it is not limited to evictions for non-payment of rent.