Impact of Covid-19 on Evictions – Article by Dennis Morgan
February 11, 2021
Back in the Spring of 2020, New Hampshire’s Governor issued Emergency Order #4 regarding a temporary prohibition on evictions and foreclosures. Landlords were prohibited from starting an eviction proceeding during the State of Emergency. This has since expired however, between the CARES Act and CDC (Centers for Disease Control) moratoriums, most evictions have now been prohibited through the end of March, 2021. This is almost a full year of prohibitions on most evictions. The pandemic’s impact on jobs has been great but there has also been a significant impact on landlords as well.
As it stands now, the CDC Order applies to “covered persons” and residential property. A Covered Person is a tenant of residential property who provides their landlord a declaration that says (1) the tenant has used their best efforts to obtain all government assistance for rent our housing; (2) the tenant earned less than $99,000 in taxable income for 2020 ($198,000 for joint filers); (3) the tenant is unable to pay the full rent or make a housing payment due to substantial loss of income, hours, wages, a layoff or extraordinary medical expenses; (4) the tenant is making best efforts to make timely partial payments; and (5) eviction would likely render the tenant homeless.
The CDC Order applies to any property leased for residential purposes, including any house, building, mobile home and or land in a mobile home park, or similar dwelling. It does not apply to hotel/motel rooms, guest house rentals on a temporary or seasonal basis.
If a tenant qualifies as a Covered Person and completes the CDC declaration, they must provide it to their landlord. If there is more than one person on a lease, each must sign the declaration and provide it to their landlord. Once the tenant completes the declaration, this will cause an eviction proceeding for non-payment of rent to terminate, even up until the point of a writ of possession being served to require a tenant to vacate the leased premises. Evictions that were completed prior to Sept. 4, 2020 are not subject to the CDC Order.
For landlords, this does not mean that there is no way to evict a tenant while the CDC moratorium is in effect. There are 5 exceptions to the moratorium which are: (1) tenant(s) engaging in criminal activity on the rental premises; (2) threatening the health or safety of other tenants; (3) damaging or posing an immediate and significant risk of damage to property; (4) violating applicable building codes, health ordinances or similar health/safety regulation; or (5) violating any other contractual obligation of a tenant’s lease, other than timely payment of rent.
Tenants have an obligation to pay their rent up to the full amount due if able. The moratorium does not suspend or cancel a tenant’s obligation to pay rent. If a tenant is unable to pay their rent and is a “Covered Person”, they cannot be evicted once they submit their CDC declaration to their landlord, but once the CDC Order expires, all unpaid or past due rent will then be due, which will then be a basis for an eviction. This includes not only the past rent but any late fees, penalties, or interest resulting from a tenant’s failure to pay rent during the period of the Order. Best practice would be for tenants to pay their rent if they can afford to do so and for Landlords to know that if they attempt an eviction during the CDC Order there can be serious consequences. Violating the CDC Order can result in fines up to $100,000 and/or a year in jail.
As difficult as the pandemic has been for both tenants and landlords, there are resources available to help. The CARES Act has set aside billions of dollars in grants for the purposes of assisting people with support for rent and housing during the pandemic. Both tenants and landlords would be advised to contact the HUD as well as state and local authorities to find out what is available in their community. This is in the best interest of both the landlords and tenants. Tenants should take full advantage of any federal, state or local rental assistance programs available. The US Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has Covid-19 resources on their website (www.hud.gov).
Dennis L. Morgan, Esq.