CDC IMPOSES MORATORIUM ON RESIDENTIAL EVICTIONS FOR NON-PAYMENT OF RENT

On September 1, 2020, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) issued an order temporarily halting residential evictions due to non-payment of rent for tenants nationwide through December 31, 2020.  Landlords should note that this new order goes far beyond the Federal eviction moratorium that ended earlier this year.  The CDC moratorium applies to ALL residential rental properties nationwide, not only to government housing or properties with federally backed mortgages.  The text of the new moratorium can be found at the following link:

https://leadingage.org/sites/default/files/Temporary%20Halt%20in%20Residential%20Evictions%20to%20Prevent%20the%20Further%20Spread%20of%20COVID-19.pdf?_ga=2.216314646.1634303642.1599053995-925892450.1599053995.

As an initial matter, there are already questions concerning whether the CDC has the legal authority to issue such an order.  Until those questions are answered, however, Landlords should carefully consider their plans for resuming evictions once the Massachusetts eviction moratorium ends, which is currently set to expire on October 17, 2020.  

Summary of New CDC Eviction Moratorium

The purpose of the CDC moratorium is to slow and prevent further spread of COVID-19.  It is not set to expire until December 31, 2020.  This moratorium will have no impact on any types of commercial evictions.

The CDC moratorium does not relieve tenants of the obligation to pay rent.  However, if the tenant does not pay rent, landlords cannot evict the tenant if the tenant is a “covered person” under the order.

The order defines a “covered person” as a tenant of a residential property who provides written documentation to the landlord, sworn under the pains and penalties of perjury, stating that:

  • The tenant has used “best efforts” to obtain all available government assistance for rent or housing;
  • The tenant is expected to earn no more than $99,000 annual income in 2020 (or $198,000 if filing jointly), or received an economic stimulus payment under the CARES Act; 
  • The tenant is unable to pay the full rent or make a full payment due to substantial loss of household income, loss of work hours, layoff, or out of pocket medical expenses;
  • The tenant is using best efforts to make timely partial payments to the fullest extent allowed by their income; and
  • Eviction would leave the tenant homeless or force them to move into close quarters or a new congregate or shared living situation.

The order includes a form document tenants can complete and return to landlords to obtain coverage.  The order does not require tenants to provide any documentary evidence supporting the verification form and there is no apparent method for landlords to challenge the information provided by tenants.  However, providing false information could result in civil or criminal penalties against a tenant.  

The CDC moratorium does not limit landlords from charging or collecting any type of fees, penalties, or interest as a result of the failure to pay rent, as long as doing so is allowed under the terms of any lease or rental agreement.

Also, the CDC moratorium ONLY prohibits rent-related evictions.  It does not prevent landlords from taking legal action based on other lease violations.  For example, the order states that landlords may still seek evictions based on criminal activity while on the premises, threatening the health or safety of other residents, damaging or posing an immediate and significant risk of damage to property or violating any other contractual obligation.

The order includes significant criminal and civil penalties for landlords who violate it.  The order states that a penalty of no more than $100,000 and/or one year in jail may be assessed against a person who violates the order.  If a violation results in a death, penalties against individual landlords could include fines up to $250,000 and/or one year in jail. The order also includes penalties of between $200,00 per violation against organizations that violate the order, and $500,000 per event if the violation results in death.  

What Landlords Can Do Going Forward

As noted above, the CDC moratorium will continue even after the Massachusetts moratorium ends.  That means Landlords will remain prohibited from taking action to enforce tenant rent payment obligations.  However, it will not prevent landlords from enforcing other provisions of leases including noise violations and other non-criminal lease defaults.  Also, the CDC moratorium will not impact landlords who decide to resume imposing late fees or evict tenants based on no-fault reasons, such as expiration of a lease term.  

If you have questions or would like to discuss eviction/summary process matters, please contact Attorney Steven D. Weil or Attorney Andrew M. Kepple, our landlord/tenant attorneys at 508-541-3000.

This blog is for informational purposes only.  It should not be considered legal advice.  All those who read this blog should seek the advice of a professional before taking action based upon any information provided herein.

© 2020 Doherty, Dugan, Cannon, Raymond & Weil, P.C.

Article by Attorney Andrew Kepple

Attorney Andrew M. Kepple has more than 10 years of experience in state and federal courts, concentrating his practice in the areas of landlord-tenant law, civil litigation and employment law.

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