On September 4, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published an Order in the Federal Register in an effort to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 by placing a temporary halt to certain residential evictions (the “Order”). Under the Order, effective through December 31, 2020, a landlord, owner of a residential property, or other person with a legal right to pursue eviction or possessory action, shall not evict any covered person under the Order from any residential property. However, the Order does not relieve any individual of any obligation to pay rent, make a housing payment, or comply with any other obligation that the individual may have under a tenancy, lease, or similar contract. Nothing in the Order precludes the charging or collecting of fees, penalties, or interest as a result of the failure to pay rent or other housing payment on a timely basis, under the terms of any applicable contract.
In order to be a “Covered Person” as defined in the Order, every tenant on a residential lease must provide their landlord a declaration under penalty of perjury indicating that:
(1) The individual has used best efforts to obtain all available government assistance for rent or housing
(2) The individual either (i) expects 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), (ii) was not required to report any income in 2019 to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, or (iii) received an Economic Impact Payment (stimulus check) pursuant to Section 2201 of the CARES Act;
(3) the individual is 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) the individual is 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 non-discretionary expenses; and
(5) eviction would likely render the individual homeless—or force the individual to move into and live in close quarters in a new congregate or shared living setting—because the individual has no other available housing options.
The Order does not preclude evictions based on a tenant: (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).
Under 18 U.S.C. 3559, 3571; 42 U.S.C. 271; and 42 CFR 70.18, a person violating the Order may be subject to a fine of no more than $100,000 if the violation does not result in a death or one year in jail, or both, or a fine of no more than $250,000 if the violation results in a death or one year in jail, or both, or as otherwise provided by law. An organization violating the Order may be subject to a fine of no more than $200,000 per event if the violation does not result in a death or $500,000 per event if the violation results in a death or as otherwise provided by law. The U.S. Department of Justice may initiate court proceedings as appropriate seeking imposition of these criminal penalties.
Little guidance has been issued regarding the Order and it remains unclear how Courts will interpret and administer the Order.
If you would like further clarification or have any questions regarding how this Order may affect you, we encourage you to reach out to your contact at Mansour Gavin or one of the firm’s real estate attorneys to discuss.