President Joe Biden’s administration unexpectedly announced a new ban on evictions last week, leaving courts, landlords and renters scrambling to navigate a new set of eviction rules.
The administration had previously indicated that evictions would resume when the original moratorium expired July 31. But a surge of COVID-19 cases spurred by the more-contagious delta variant of the coronavirus led the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to institute a new moratorium three days later.
The new moratorium has some different rules and requirements than the former ban, but many of the qualifications and restrictions are similar to the old moratorium.
Here’s what you need to know:
How is this different than the previous moratorium?
The new moratorium is narrower than the previous CDC eviction moratorium, which protected any American renter who could prove an eligible COVID-19-related impact.
The new eviction ban applies only to counties with high rates of COVID-19 transmission, reflecting where the CDC recommends vaccinated resident masks indoors and in public settings.
All Arizona counties fall into this category as of Aug. 10.
How long will the moratorium last?
The moratorium is set to expire on Sep. 30, but the protection could end sooner in some parts of Arizona if COVID-19 cases decline.
The moratorium only applies in counties with “substantial” or “high” community COVID-19 transmission levels, as tracked by the CDC.
If a county falls into the “moderate” or “low” categories for 14 consecutive days, the moratorium will no longer apply in that county, unless the level of transmission increases to “substantial” or “high” again.
How do I qualify for the moratorium?
Like the previous moratorium, the eviction protection is not automatic. Renters must provide their landlord with a declaration stating:
They lost income during the pandemic.
They can’t make full rent payments.
They will try to make partial rent payments.
They have applied for rental help.
They live in a county with substantial or high rates of community transmission of COVID-19.
An eviction would leave them homeless or in cramped, unsafe living conditions.
Under the CDC rules, renters can’t earn more than $99,000 a year to qualify. Couples who file joint tax returns can make twice that much and qualify.
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Are all evictions prevented?
No. Only evictions filed for nonpayment of rent are prohibited under the CDC moratorium.
A landlord can still seek eviction for other breaches of the lease, like criminal activity, property damage or health code violations.
During the moratorium, landlords can still file for eviction for nonpayment of rent and ask a judge to order an eviction judgment — they just can’t enforce the judgment and make their renters leave until after the moratorium ends.
What if my lease is set to expire?
If a tenant’s lease ends and the renter does not leave, a landlord can file for eviction to remove them. Whether those evictions are prevented by the new moratorium often depends on a judge’s interpretation.
A new Arizona Supreme Court administrative order says judges should presume a lease-end eviction is a nonpayment issue if a renter owes rent or interest. If its a nonpayment issue, that renter should be protected by the moratorium.
However, if a landlord can prove he or she ended the lease for a reason other than nonpayment, a judge may allow the eviction to proceed.
If I have an eviction hearing, do I still have to attend?
Yes. The moratorium only prevents the physical lockout of tenants. Evictions hearings will still continue and judges typically automatically award judgments for landlords if the renter does not show.
Renters and landlords can participate in eviction hearings either in person or remotely. Information about how to attend a hearing virtually should be included on all court paperwork.
What if a landlord filed for eviction on the 3 days without a moratorium?
The old CDC eviction moratorium expired July 31 and the new moratorium didn’t take effect until Aug.3, meaning there were three days without a moratorium.
However, the new moratorium applies to any eviction that has been filed and not yet completed, so all of the evictions filed during the three-day window should be subject to the new protection.
Will landlords challenge the moratorium?
Landlord and real estate groups across the country challenged the previous CDC moratorium.
One challenge made it to the Supreme Court, where the majority of justices allowed the moratorium to remain intact in June. However, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who cast the deciding vote, indicated that he did not believe the moratorium was constitutional but allowed it to remain in place because it was set to expire July 31 anyway.
A day after the new moratorium took effect, a group of real estate entities asked a federal court to block enforcement of the Biden administration’s new policy. The lawsuit will likely make its way to the Supreme Court.
In a news conference last week, Biden said legal experts he consulted disagree on whether the new moratorium will hold up in court.
He said he expects the moratorium will be challenged in court, but said the time it will take for the litigation to play out will give states and cities more time to disburse rental assistance to struggling renters.
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Individual landlords can also dispute the validity of their renters’ moratorium qualifications in court.
A landlord can file a motion disputing their tenants’ CDC declaration. If the landlord can provide a factual basis for filing the motion, a judge will schedule an evidence hearing and may allow the eviction to proceed if the landlord can prove the renter does not meet all of the CDC qualifications.
Coverage of housing insecurity on azcentral.com and in The Arizona Republic is supported by a grant from the Arizona Community Foundation.
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 480-694-1823. Follow her on Twitter @jboehm_NEWS.
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AUTHOR: Jessica Boehm