Shortly before the the nationwide eviction moratorium was set to expire on March 31st, the Biden administration re-extended it through June 30th. There is a lot of confusion about the moratorium by both landlords and tenants.
We have several clients who are residential landlords and they were successfully able to evict their tenants for a variety of reasons.
BURDEN IS ON TENANT TO SEEK PROTECTION OF MORATORIUM; IT IS NOT AUTOMATIC.
First thing to note, the landlord can initiate eviction proceedings and the burden is upon the tenant to invoked the protections of the moratorium. Secondly, the tenant bears the burden to prove they are eligible for the protection.
THE TENANT MUST PROVE THEIR ELIGIBILITY; THE MORATORIUM DOESN’T APPLY TO ALL
To avoid eviction under the CDC moratorium, a tenant must meet at least one of these requirements to be eligible:
- The tenant expects to earn no more than $99,000 ($198,000) in annual income during 2020-2021;
- The tenant did not have to report any income to the IRS in 2020; or
- The tenant received stimulus payment under the CARES Act.
MORATORIUMS REQUIRES TENANTS TO MAKE AFFIRMATIVE ACTIONS, THEY CANNOT SIT BACK AND JUST NOT PAY RENT
If the tenant meets the income requirements, they then must meet all of the following additional requirements to be a “covered person” under the moratorium:
- The tenant must have made best efforts to obtain all available government rent and housing assistance;
- The tenant must be unable to part or all of their rent due to substantial loss of income, work, layoff, or extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses;
- The tenant must make best efforts to make timely partial payments in as large of an amount as they can afford; and
- Eviction would likely leave the tenant homeless or force them to move into close quarters in a congregate or shared living situation.
So, even in the cases where the tenant meets the income criteria, they often fail to evidence any of the other requirements. Merely, filing a declaration is not enough. We have not seen anyone at hearing evidence any efforts to obtain housing assistance. Or they have not made best efforts to make partial payments. In either scenario, the moratorium doesn’t apply.
If you are a tenant, you need to contact DHR and other government agencies which might provide some assistance. For instance, the JCCEO CSBG Rental Assistance Program provides such assistance. According to their website:
The JCCEO CSBG Rental Assistance Program is designed to meet the emergency needs of households confronted with a financial crisis due to sudden unemployment, illness of a primary wage-earner, or natural disasters such as Covid-19.
The Alabama Department of Human Resources (DHR) Alabama is offering short-term assistance to individuals with low income and who need help paying rent. The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) has received $23 million for homelessness assistance and relief. To find out who in your area can help with rent and utilities, call 2-1-1 or visit 211connectsalabama.org. The Alabama Housing Financing Authority administers a separate fund of $256 million that can help with past due rent and utilities. To find out more and apply for assistance, call 833-620-2434 or click here.
Landlords: if your tenants, seeking moratorium, have not sought assistance from these programs, challenge their eligibility.
Similarly, if the tenants have failed to make any efforts to pay, challenge their eligibility. Identify everything else they are spending their money on. Are they paying hundreds for cell phones or new shoes and clothing. Challenge their eligibility.
THE MORATORIUM ONLY APPLIES TO EVICTIONS BASED ON FAILURE TO PAY
The Moratorium does not apply to evictions based upon:
- Criminal activity by the tenant or their guests
- The tenant of guests threatening the health or safety of other residents
- The tenant damaging or posing a significant risk of damage to property
- The tenant violating health, building, or other regulations relating to health and safety
- The tenant violating lease provisions, other than those relating to payment of rent and similar housing-related payments.
Accordingly, landlords can proceed with eviction for a host of breaches of the lease agreement.
THE MORATORIUM DOES NOT EXTEND THE LENGTH OF A LEASE
If a lease expired and the tenant refuses to leaves and holdover, a landlord can evict.