Evictions banned through December for most US tenants

CDC invokes measure on Trump’s OK, but money for landlords is in question

President Donald Trump (Getty, iStock)
President Donald Trump (Getty, iStock)

The Trump administration today announced sweeping eviction protections in light of the health crisis.

The public health order, a draft of which the Centers for Disease Control posted Tuesday afternoon, will halt evictions from Sept. 4 through the end of the year for residential tenants who qualify. To be eligible, tenants must file a form to their landlord declaring they cannot pay rent, have availed themselves of available assistance and make less than $99,000 per year or have received a federal coronavirus aid check earlier this year.

Landlords can still evict tenants for reasons other than non-payment of rent, and the moratorium does not constitute a cancelation of rent, the order said. A White House spokesperson told reporters that federal funds have been made available for affected landlords. However, no details were given, and it is not clear what recourse landlords will have if tenants stop paying rent.

A CDC memo to explain the measure said that halting evictions lets local governments “more easily implement stay-at-home and social distancing directives to mitigate the community spread of Covid-19.”

The agency also noted that “housing stability helps protect public health,” because homelessness increases the likelihood of individuals moving into homeless shelters, where they are at higher risk for contracting the disease.

On Tuesday, before the announcement, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said the measure would affect close to 40 million of the roughly 43 million rental households in the United States.

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The move comes nearly a month after President Donald Trump directed agencies to “consider” an eviction ban for properties backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, after an eviction moratorium covering properties with federally backed mortgages expired. Last week, those protections were extended through the end of the year.

Unemployed workers have been without enhanced federal benefits since they expired at the end of July, and Congress has yet to reach an agreement on a further aid package.

Groups representing landlords have criticized eviction moratoriums for not addressing the problem of tenants unable to pay rent, and said this latest measure is more of the same.

“Eviction moratoriums don’t actually solve anything, so it’s not terribly surprising this administration would pursue a moratorium as a cynical political ploy before the election,” said Jay Martin, executive director of the Community Housing Improvement Program, a landlord group in New York City.

Doug Bibby, president of the National Multifamily Housing Council, a trade association that represents rental landlords, said in a statement that he was “disappointed” with the measure, and hoped that Congress would reach an agreement to address financial pressures on owners.

“An eviction moratorium will ultimately harm the very people it aims to help by making it impossible for housing providers, particularly small owners, to meet their financial obligations and continue to provide shelter to their residents,” Bibby said.