Tag Archives: CDC

CDC’s Eviction Ban, Please and Maybe

New Orleans     I didn’t want to be right on this, but from any reading of the Center for Disease Control’s federal eviction ban, it was clear that it was going to be a hot mess when it came to implementation.  At one level, the order was full of a Swiss cheese of holes left open to subjective interpretation, self-certification, and potentially contentious disagreements.  The CDC offered no straight path for tenants to follow, other than a declaration statement of their income, and no incentive for landlords to do anything but grin and bear it, which they are notoriously unable to do.  With neither the tenants nor the landlords getting any relief, they would all just swim in the unhappy stew until the end of the year.  What could go wrong?  Just about everything it had seemed to me, and, tragically, that seems to be playing out around the country.

A story by Matthew Goldstein in the New York Times makes the case that any dental inspection of the CDC order to determine whether or not it has any teeth or is all gums, pretty much depends on where you live and even what judge you might happen to draw, if you are facing eviction.  Local judges in North Carolina have questioned the constitutionality of the order, and a landlord in Atlanta has filed suit over the question. Some judges believe the order only affects tenants who were covered under the CARES stimulus package.  Some think it only deals with new filings or freezes them in place.  Some don’t seem to care what the order says and ignore it completely.  About the only encouraging word came out of New Hampshire of all places where,

…the state’s Supreme Court has put the onus on the landlords. An order from the court said they must file affidavits stating that they are in compliance with the C.D.C. order before commencing an eviction proceeding and must notify the court if at any point a tenant signs a declaration saying she can’t pay rent because of the pandemic.

Anarchy rules and tenants suffer.  Housing advocates, lawyers, and professors who study this are all unanimous in arguing that there needs to be uniform interpretation and implementation of the order, but without a real mechanism for enforcement, how is that going to happen?  The fines detailed in the order were significant, but I would take a bet that when this is all said and done, less than a handful of landlords will suffer any penalties, and one or none will end up with a $200,000 hit.  This is actually why we elect people to Congress to make real laws and real policies that have the full strength of the federal government, and proof again why the US pandemic response has been so lame and incompetent.

Meanwhile the big boys do what they want, when they want, and how they want.  According to the Private Equity Stakeholder Project,

Corporate landlords, including private equity firms, filed more than 1,500 eviction actions in large counties in Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee and Texas since the C.D.C. announced it was imposing a moratorium….

What’s a $100 or $200,000 fine to the big whoops, compared to losing rent from tenants, imperiled and out of work?  It’s chickenfeed, and makes a mockery of the order from the CDC providing any hope for most tenants as little more than chicken scratch.

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Navigating the Eviction Relief Labyrinth

Pearl River     All of the headlines read that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) had directed no evictions for the rest of the year.  Before we do the happy dance, it’s best to read the fine print, because there is a lot of it.  For those force fed the biblical traditions in their youth, you might remember, and for others welcome to the story, how difficult it is for a rich man to get to heaven, another story in that tradition.  Reportedly, it would be easier to get a camel through the eye of a needle.  That’s a mental picture not soon forgotten!  Remember that as you read the details on not being evicted, because you may come to believe it might have been easier to crawl through the eye of a needle as well.

Income at first glance seems not to be the issue.  Couples can make less than $200,000 and individual’s less than $100,000 in something called “expected income.”  If you’re waiting at the dock for your ship to come in, make sure the load is less than these figures.  If you received a stimulus check with a letter from President Trump earlier in the year, you should qualify on this score automatically.

Initially, I read that you had to have lost income because of Covid-19.  It seems that if you can establish “substantial” decrease in household income or “extraordinary” out-of-pocket medical bills, defined as over 7.5% of your adjusted gross income, you’re good to go on this count.

Here’s a kicker though.  The CDC order is not a rent relief, amnesty, or a moratorium.  It claims to be eviction relief, which is a big difference.  You have to be making your best effort to pay your rent in a timely fashion with partial payments as near the full bill as your fixed expenses will allow.  I can already hear the office phones ringing off the hook in a couple of weeks when tenants are being evicted for nonpayment and didn’t understand they needed to treat the landlord like a layaway and put something down every month and on the due date.

That’s not all of course.  Even if you hit the marks so far, you also have to prove that you would be homeless, forced into a spot even more expensive and past your budget, or squeezed into an overcrowded situation where Covid-19 might be your roommate.

Make it through all that and maybe you might be in the clear, but your landlord can be the devil in these details, given how subjective many of them are, and toss you out, claiming you aren’t qualified.  At that point, heaven was a dream, and you are now in housing hell.

The CDC suggests you write a declaration of sorts, kind of a self-certification so you will be ready for war.  Advice in the Times suggests you get ready for housing court or find a lawyer.  We must be talking about some high-end evictions in some fine cities, because most of this advice won’t make it for the vast majority of tenants being pushed towards the street.

Oh, and just to be crystal clear, come January 2021, if you managed to make it with your landlord through this year, you will still owe all the rent that you didn’t pay, maybe with interest and penalties.

The landlord who violates the CDC order, technically, could be subject to up to $100,000 in fines and one year in jail or both, and that’s if no one dies from the virus in which case the fine could be $250,000.  I’d have to see that to actually believe it.

Might be easier to watch that camel try to crawl through the eye of a needle.  Good luck!

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