Warning: Landlords Are Exploiting Loopholes in the Eviction Moratorium

Landlords across the country can begin the eviction process early, despite an active federal moratorium, according to a Friday order from the CDC. This update comes as crucial state protections expire and Congress is still stalled on the next stimulus package.

There was a lot stated in the order, including rental assistance options and a list of reasons landlords can still evict people. The most notable loophole was this distinction: the order was not “intended to prevent landlords from starting eviction proceedings, provided that the actual eviction of a covered person for non-payment of rent does not take place during the period of the Order.” 

[ Read: How to Negotiate Rent With Your Landlord ]

So landlords are free to start the process and can evict renters, as long as they don’t require a covered person leave their home until the day after the moratorium ends — January 1, 2021. “I think the CDC order demonstrates the ongoing importance of tenants having access to legal representation,” says Renee Williams, senior staff attorney at the National Housing Law Project.

The order clarifies that landlords are not required to tell renters about the protections they have either. They have no obligation to tell their tenants about the CDC’s declaration form that’s required to be protected under the moratorium.

Even with the moratorium, evictions have still happened

The fact is, people have been getting evicted from their homes since the start of the pandemic. The lack of governmental assistance for both tenants and landlords is increasing the pressure for most owners to cover mortgages, which then affects a tenant who may be facing financial hardship due to the pandemic.

To be clear, the moratorium only applies to not being able to pay rent. People can still be evicted for “posing a risk to the property”, “engaging in criminal activity while on the premises.” But the memo’s detail of not requiring landlords to inform tenants about the eviction moratorium or the forms they need to fill out to qualify for protection can allow evictions to happen faster.

[ Read: What to Do If You Can’t Pay Rent ]

Some property owners are even taking their tenants to court to question their protections under the moratorium. Williams suggests seeking representation as soon as your landlord notifies you of possible eviction.

“If a tenant receives an eviction notice, they should discuss their individual situation with a local tenants’ rights attorney immediately to understand what rights and protections may exist — either under the CDC order or perhaps state and local protections. Low-income tenants can reach out to their local legal aid office for more information,” Williams adds.

Experts cited

Renee Williams is a Senior Staff Attorney at the National Housing Law Project. Renee focuses on fair housing and equal access to housing issues, including national origin discrimination, housing access for persons with limited English proficiency, nuisance and crime-free housing ordinances, and the obligation to affirmatively further fair housing.

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Taylor Leamey

Personal Finance Reporter

Taylor Leamey is a personal finance reporter at The Simple Dollar who specializes in personal loans, student loans, mortgages, renters, and financial policy. Her reporting has also been featured at CreditCards.com, Interest.com, Reviews.com, MyMove.com, and elsewhere.

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  • Andrea Perez
    Andrea Perez
    Personal Finance Editor

    Andrea Perez is an editor at The Simple Dollar who leads our news and opinion coverage. She specializes in financial policy, banking, and investing.