While there have been several legal challenges to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) nationwide moratorium on residential evictions for non-payment of rent, on March 29, 2021 the CDC extended the moratorium through June 30, 2021. As many are aware, the moratorium prohibits eviction of covered persons (see prior law alert here for more details) for non-payment of rent while the moratorium is in place. Full payment of all past due and current rent due is payable upon the expiration of the moratorium.
With $50 billion in federal money earmarked for rent relief in recent federal stimulus, including $25 billion from the December stimulus package and $27 billion in the most recent American Rescue Plan Act, these funds cannot come fast enough to support tenants and take the burden off landlords/owners. In addition to extending the effective period of the moratorium to June 30, 2021, the March 29, 2021 Order makes the following modifications:
- Adds a “Statement of Intent” regarding the mitigation of the spread of COVID-19.
- Provides clarification of the terms “evict” and “eviction” with both meaning any action by a landlord, owner of a residential property, or other person with a legal right to pursue eviction or possessory action, to remove or cause the removal of a covered period from a residential property.
- Adds the following to the “Applicability” section of the Order:
- A signed declaration submitted under a previous order remains valid and covered persons do not need to submit a new declaration.
- Evictions for non-payment of rent initiated prior to September 4, 2020, but not yet complete are subject to the Order, but those that were completed before September 4, 2020, are not subject to the Order.
- Clarifies that while the Order does not prohibit evictions for engaging in criminal activity while on the leased premises, covered persons may not be evicted on the sole basis that they are alleged to have committed the crime of trespass (or similar) where the underlying activity is a covered person remaining in a residential property despite non-payment of rent.
- States that individuals who are confirmed to have, who have been exposed to, or who might have COVID-19 and take reasonable precautions to not spread the disease should not be evicted on grounds that they pose a health or safety threat to other residents.
- States that even if a particular eviction, standing alone, would not result in interstate displacement, the mass evictions that would occur in the absence of the Order would inevitably increase interstate spread of COVID-19.
- The “Background,” “Eviction and Risk of COVID-19 Infection” and “Eviction Homelessness and Risk of Severe Disease from COVID-19” subsections of the Order are revised to reflect updated epidemiological and other relevant information to support the Order.
- The Order adds a new Section titled “Declaration Forms” with the following points:
- To qualify as a covered person eligible for the protections of the Order, a tenant, lessee, or resident of a residential property must provide a completed and signed copy of a declaration with the elements listed in the definition of “Covered Person” in the Order to their landlord, owner of the residential property where they live, or other person who has the right to have them evicted or removed.
- Tenants, lessees, or residents of a residential property may use any written document in place of the Declaration Form if it includes the required information as in the Form, is signed, and includes a perjury statement.
- Tenants, lessees, or residents of a residential property can use a form translated into other languages.
- Notes that in some circumstances it may be appropriate for one member of the residence to provide an executed declaration on behalf of other adult residents who are party to the lease, rental agreement or housing contract.
- The Order modifies the “Findings of Action” section of the Order to further explain that the Order is not a rule within the meaning of the Administration Procedure Act and, to the extent a court finds that the Order qualifies as a rule, there is good cause to dispense with prior public notice and comment.
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues and the CDC continues to extend the nationwide eviction moratorium for failure to pay rent, landlords, owners and property managers should make every effort to assist residential tenants by providing information related to any state or local program distributing the $50 billion in federal rent relief money earmarked for renters in recent federal stimulus, including $25 billion from the December stimulus and $27 billion in the most recent American Rescue Plan Act.
In Georgia, Governor Brian Kemp announced that the State of Georgia received more than $552 million in stimulus funds through the federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program. Starting in early March 2021, the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (GDCA) launched the State of Georgia Rental Assistance Program (GRA) to administer payments of the stimulus funds Congress granted to Georgia. Payments made under the GRA will be provided directly to landlords/owners and utility providers – not to renters, but only renters are able to apply for such funds. Information on program details and the online application portal are available on the GDCA website here. Landlords, owners and property managers should consider reaching out to tenants and assisting them in understanding the GRA and completing documentation/applications in relation to such program.