With millions of people currently out of work due to the coronavirus pandemic, many people are falling behind on their rent payments, and are worried about eviction. The good news is that the recently-passed CARES Act imposes a moratorium (pause) on evictions due to non-payment of rent or other charges. The moratorium does not cover every single rental property, but it is very broad. The following provides more detail on the properties covered and the scope of the moratorium.
What properties are covered by the moratorium?
The moratorium covers the following properties:
- Any property that participates in a Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) housing program. These include Section 8 housing, Section 202 elderly housing, and Section 801 housing for people with disabilities programs, among many others.
- Any property that participates in a Department of Agriculture housing program. These include Section 515 rural rental housing, Section 514 and 516 farm labor housing, and section 538 multifamily rental housing.
- Any property that receives the Department of the Treasury low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC).
- Any property that participates in the Rural Housing Voucher Program.
- Any property with a federally-backed mortgage loan. This is probably the broadest category, and it covers HUD mortgages, VA mortgages, USDA mortgages, and Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac mortgages. In addition, this category covers mortgages that are insured, supplemented, or assisted in any way by the federal government. This means that a lot of properties with private mortgage loans will potentially be covered as well.
What protections do tenants get?
The law prevents landlords of the covered properties (those listed above) from filing new eviction actions for non-payment of rent for 120 days, beginning with the date of the enactment of the law, March 27, 2020. After the 120 days expire, landlords cannot evict tenants except on 30 days’ notice. In addition, if a landlord of a covered property receives forbearance on the mortgage, the landlord cannot evict a tenant for the duration of the forbearance (maximum 90 days). The landlord also cannot charge fees, penalties, or other charges due to the non-payment of rent.
Are there situations where the landlord can still evict the tenant?
There are some situations in which the landlord can still evict a tenant during the 120-day moratorium imposed by the CARES Act. These include:
- Evictions that were initiated before March 27, 2020.
- Where the rental property is not covered under the law. For example, a property would not be covered if there is no mortgage on it, and it does not participate in any federal housing programs.
- Where the eviction is based on a reason other than non-payment of rent. For example, a tenant can still be evicted for causing damage to the property.
How to determine if you are protected from eviction.
It may not be always easy to determine if you are protected from eviction by the CARES Act, because you, as the tenant, may not have sufficient information to determine if the property you are renting is covered by the law. However, if you are being evicted for non-payment of rent, chances are good that you are protected by this COVID-19 law. It is best in such situations to consult a qualified attorney. Even if the landlord is telling you that you are being evicted for a reason other than non-payment of rent, but you are also behind on rent, there is a possibility that the landlord is really evicting you for not paying rent, and you should be protected under the law. In short, if you are behind on rent, the CARES Act may offer you protection from eviction, and you should consult with an attorney.
Additional protections for Arizona residents during the COVID pandemic
For tenants residing in Arizona, there are additional protections available even if the rental property is not covered under the CARES Act. The Arizona governor has issued an executive order that prohibits certain evictions until July 22, 2020. The order applies to all residential rental properties. The order prohibits evictions if the tenant informs the landlord, and provides documentation, of any of the following:
- A tenant is required to be quarantined due to be diagnosed with COVID-19
- A tenant is ordered by a licensed medical professional to self-quarantine due to showing symptoms of the virus
- A tenant demonstrates that s/he has a health condition that makes them more at risk for COVID-19
- A tenant suffered a substantial loss of income due to COVID-19
Because in most cases the inability to pay rent will be the result of a loss of income, most people struggling to pay rent should be covered under this executive order.
What to do if you are not protected under the CARES Act or other coronavirus-related laws
If you are not protected under the CARES Act or the Arizona executive order, for example because the duration of those protections has expired, there may still be options available. One such option is to catch up on the missed rent payments by filing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. You may also be able to restructure your financial expenditures to prioritize rent payments. For more information, you may be interested in learning about managing your financial affairs during the coronavirus pandemic.