The New Eviction Moratorium: What You Need to Know

A Trump administration order could allow many renters to avoid eviction through Dec. 31. We answer renters’ questions here.

By Ron Lieber

The Trump administration has announced an order to suspend the possibility of eviction for millions of renters who have suffered financially because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that the order was an emergency action, which it is entitled to take under the law.

Here are the answers to questions that renters may have about the order, which is more expansive than the now-expired moratorium that was part of the virus relief package this spring. We will add to this list as we learn more. Please email your questions to [email protected]

Who is eligible?

You must meet a five-pronged test.

You need to have used your “best efforts” to obtain any and all forms of government rental assistance.

You can’t “expect” to earn more than $99,000 in 2020, or $198,000 if you’re married and filing a joint tax return. If you don’t qualify that way, you could still be eligible if you did not need to report any income at all to the federal government in 2019 or if you received a stimulus check earlier this year.

You must be experiencing a “substantial” loss of household income, a layoff or “extraordinary” out-of-pocket medical expenses (which the order defines as any unreimbursed expense likely to exceed 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income this year).

You have to be making your best efforts to make “timely” partial payments that are as close to the full amount due as “circumstances may permit,” taking into account other nondiscretionary expenses.

Eviction would “likely” lead to either homelessness or your having to move to a place that is more expensive or where you could get sick from being close to others.

A lot of that is pretty subjective. If it’s a close call, who decides?

Landlords who disagree with renters’ self-assessments could try to evict nonpaying tenants and dare them to fight back legally. Then, it could be up to a housing court judge to decide if a renter is eligible for the moratorium or if the landlord can, in fact, evict.

How do I prove to my landlord that I’m eligible?

The C.D.C. order makes reference to a declaration that renters should draft and then provides an example of one near the end of the document.

Who should make a declaration?

The order says that every adult who is on the lease should draft and sign their own declaration.

I have a roommate. What happens if one of us is under the income cap but the other is not?

The rules for roommates are not clear. We are asking federal officials for more clarity and will update this article when we know more.

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