In spring 2020, the CARES Act placed a partial moratorium on evictions across the country. Many states and cities implemented their own more stringent eviction bans, barring landlords from starting the eviction process.
That made lease agreements effectively one-way legal contracts. Landlords had to continue providing their service, but tenants could break their obligations with no enforcement mechanism in place for landlords. That left many landlords pinched with no rental income but lenders still demanding mortgage payments, local governments still demanding property taxes, and properties still requiring maintenance.
While landlords could not file for eviction, tenants were still technically obligated to pay their rents, and after the eviction moratoriums expire, back rent will still be due. That leaves many housing experts fearful of an eviction crisis looming in 2021.
So, where do these moratoriums on evictions stand in early 2021? Here’s what landlords need to know, both on a national level and in key states and cities.
Nationwide Moratorium on Evictions (CDC)
The original CARES Act eviction moratorium expired in late July 2020, only to be replaced by a far more comprehensive eviction ban by the CDC. It blocks landlords from filing for eviction against any tenants who meet the following criteria:
The tenant “used best efforts to obtain all available government assistance for rent or housing,”
They earned no more than $99,000 in income for Calendar Year 2020-2021 ($198,000 for married couples filing jointly), were not required to report any income in 2019 to the IRS, or received a stimulus check from of the CARES Act,
They can’t 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
The renter 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
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.
Originally set to expire at midnight on December 31, 2020, the second stimulus package passed by Congress extended the moratorium on evictions through January 31, 2021. The second stimulus package also includes $25 billion in rental assistance for households facing income drops due to the pandemic, an addition welcomed by landlords and tenants alike.
As one of its first acts on Inauguration Day, the Biden Administration extended it again through March 31, 2021.
However in late February, U.S. District Court Judge J. Campbell Barker ruled the eviction ban as unconstitutional. He stopped short of issuing a preliminary injunction, but said he expects the CDC to lift the ban. As of March 10, the moratorium remains in place.
The $1.9 trillion stimulus/relief bill known as the American Rescue Plan notably does not extend the nationwide eviction moratorium. It does include $30 billion in additional funding for emergency rent relief programs, in addition to extending unemployment benefits — a boon for legitimately unemployed tenants struggling to make rent payments.
City & State Eviction Moratoriums
Beyond the federal moratorium on evictions, many states and individual cities have put their own eviction bans in place.
Consider the following a quick summary of the largest eviction moratoriums in place on the state and city levels that local landlords need to understand before breaching them unwittingly.
Texas Eviction Moratorium
Texas does not impose a statewide moratorium on evictions. Instead, Texas offers a solution that protects both parties: a rental assistance program.
The Texas Eviction Diversion Program (TEDP) provides rent help for renters who lost income due to the pandemic and fell behind on their rent payments. The program covers up to five months of unpaid rents, and dismisses the eviction case to keep renters in their homes. To add further protection for renters, the judge seals the record of participation so it does not appear in public records and therefore in future tenant screening reports when the tenant applies for a new home.
Tenants stay in their homes, landlords continue receiving rental income, lenders keep receiving landlord mortgage payments, and unpayable back rents don’t pile up for renters. Everybody wins.
For now, at least. The TEDP will expire on March 15, 2021 if not extended.