Last week, the CDC announced that it will be extending an eviction ban in counties “experiencing substantial and high level of community transmission” of COVID-19, which is expected to cover 90% of renters throughout the United States through October 3, 2021. Naturally, this is a huge relief to tenants who are struggling to pay their rent in the wake of the pandemic. But on the flipside, this can present a lot of difficulties for landlords who are relying on rental income to pay down mortgages on their investment properties — especially when bans like this one have been in place for well over a year now.
A Timeline of Eviction Moratoriums
On March 27, 2020 the US Congress passed the $2 trillion CARES act aimed at providing economic relief to Americans affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. This initial bill included a ban on evictions from federally financed residences, but this covered fewer than 33% of the country’s rental units. A lack of enforcement also meant that the ban was largely ignored. As eviction proceedings continued in over 20 states that had passed eviction bans locally, the CDC stepped in in September of 2020 to put a stricter ban in place through the end of the year.
Since then, eviction bans have been extended for 3 months at a time, being renewed in January, April, and now in early August. However, this latest extension comes after the US Supreme Court ruled that no such bans could be enacted or extended by the White House without congressional approval, potentially opening up this ban to litigation. In the meantime, though, there are programs available to assist tenants — and landlords — in order to ensure that rent is paid.
Rental Assistance Programs Help Tenants & Landlords
In June, the American Rescue Plan allocated $21.5 billion for Emergency Rental Assistance that can be used by renters to cover arrears retroactive to March 13, 2020. This is on top of $25 billion that was allocated under the Consolidated Appropriations Act, totaling more than $46 billion in Emergency Rental Assistance available. However, only $3 billion of this funding has been disbursed, with many renters apparently still unaware that they may qualify for assistance programs. A further hurdle exists in that every state and local government is responsible for their own processes to access and disburse this funding, which in some cases has caused the approval and disbursement of these funds to be much slower than desired.
If you’re a landlord with tenants who owe rent, it’s more important now than ever to communicate with your tenants and let them know what options are available to them. Be sure to look up rental assistance programs in your local area, and urge your tenants to apply for funding, as this can help cover rental dues you’re owed. In Maryland, for example, each individual county has a program available under Maryland’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program. Gathering information and delivering it to your tenants is a great way to get the process started.
In many cases, landlords are able to apply directly for funding with proper documentation of lease terms and rental income records rather than relying on a tenant to fill out an application with all proper documentation. Another avenue that may help landlords — under the right circumstances, of course — is potential to refinance a rental property and receive cash out to help make ends meet.
How Quickly Can Emergency Rental Assistance Funding Come Through?
Currently, every local government is responsible for collecting and processing applications for Emergency Rental Assistance. Every jurisdiction has a different set of requirements, with some being more lenient than others in terms of documentation required to be approved for assistance. Some local agencies are able to process applications within 48 hours and secure funding within a few business days, while others may take several weeks to process applications and disburse funds. So unfortunately, there is not a succinct answer to the above question — some jurisdictions are moving much more quickly than others. Be sure to check with your local government representatives to find out average waiting times. It also doesn’t hurt to have open communication with your tenant to ensure that you’re both working together to resolve the issue, rather than creating an antagonistic relationship.
On What Grounds is Eviction Currently Possible?
Though this blockage of eviction proceedings is referred to as a “ban” or “moratorium,” it’s important to note for both tenants and landlords that, while evictions due to a failure to pay rent are banned, there are still certain circumstances under which eviction is considered an appropriate legal remedy. For example, if a tenant has not paid rent due to loss of income, a landlord is not obligated to renew the tenant’s lease. If that lease expires, even with the eviction ban in place, a tenant holding over action can be taken which is not protected by state or federal eviction moratoriums.
At the end of the day, these are difficult times for everyone, and it’s always important to remember the human element in landlord-tenant relationships. Communication is key to resolving conflicts. Be sure to research all available options, and to be reasonable and fair throughout the process of collecting or paying past-due rent.