Trump administration orders halt on evictions through the end of 2020

In what’s shaping up to be a rough year for landlords and residents alike, the latest chapter unfolded yesterday afternoon when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) filed an order that halts evictions until the end of 2020. This new order, which took effect today, could result in an estimated 40 million renters applying for eviction relief from their landlords through December 31, 2020. While this move gives relief to thousands of households struggling with unemployment associate with COVID-19, it has left landlords in the unfortunate balance of managing delicate resident relations and the collection of critical rents to service debt and property operations. David Howard, executive director at the National Rental Home Council, a trade group for the single-family rental home industry, points out that this new moratorium will leave many landlords without 9½ months of rent in 2020. We’ve complied a list of common questions and best practices to help landlords navigate these complicated times in an effort to provide advice and resources for anyone that manages rental homes.

How does a renter qualify for relief?

The order applies to renters who swear under penalty of perjury that the following are true:

  • The individual has used best efforts to obtain all available government assistance for rent or housing
  • The individual either (i) expects to earn no more than $99,000 in annual income for Calendar Year 2020 (or no more than $198,000 if filing a joint tax return), (ii) was not required to report any income in 2019 to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, or (iii) received an Economic Impact Payment (stimulus check) pursuant to Section 2201 of the CARES Act
  • The individual is unable to pay the full rent or make a full housing payment due to substantial loss of household income, loss of compensable hours of work or wages, a lay-off, or extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses
  • The individual is using best efforts to make timely partial payments that are as close to the full payment as the individual’s circumstances may permit, taking into account other non-discretionary expenses
  • Eviction would likely render the individual homeless— or force the individual to move into and live in close quarters in a new congregate or shared living setting— because the individual has no other available housing options.

Do roommates need to request relief individually?

The order doesn’t address roommates directly, but officials working on the order clarified that the income cap was $99,000 per roommate. As for who should pay what if just one person can’t pay in full, the specifics may depend on the terms of the lease, any written agreement between you and your roommate, and applicable state or local law. There are likely many scenarios that will be interpreted differently by localities, but it is recommended that every adult who is named on the lease to request relief individually.

Can I still evict a renter for reasons other than non-payment?

The order does not affect the ability of a landlord to evict for reasons other than non-payment of rent or the ability to charge late fees for unpaid rent. It should be noted that the order does not relieve the renter of the obligation to pay rent or adhere to the lease. As always, keep copious records of all your conversations with renters and document all interactions that can be considered cause for evicting a renter.

What about state and local eviction moratoriums?

This order does not affect state and local eviction moratoriums that are already in place and that meet or exceed the same level of protection as that in the CDC order. Landlords should stay informed on the ongoing efforts by the state and localities to control evictions. Check out Eviction Lab, a great resource that’s compiled state-by-state resources on the different aspects of the shifting housing policy landscape.

Eviction lab’s breakdown of state eviction restrictions.

State specific breakdown of eviction policies and COIVD related relief.

Can landlords request proof of a residents hardship?

Senior administration officials who helped write the order claim that residents should provide “reasonable” specifics to prove eligibility for relief. The recommended proof would come in the form of the published declaration form that the CDC published on its website.

Are there penalties for renters and landlords that abuse this order?

There are some serious consequences for renters that abuse this forgiveness in the form of criminal penalties that include:

  • Violations by a person of the order are punishable by a fine of up to $100,000 and up to 1 year in jail, or both, if the violation does not result in a death. If it does result in a death, a violation by a person is punishable by a fine of up to $250,000, or 1 year in jail, or both.
  • Violations by an organization are punishable by a fine of up to $200,000 and up to 1 year in jail, or both, if the violation does not result in a death. If it does result in a death, a violation by an organization is punishable by a fine of up to $500,000.
  • Perjury is a federal crime that that is punishable by a fine or by up to 5 years in jail, or both.

The consequences for compliance isn’t just for the renters. Landlords are subject to a fine up to $100,000 (evictions where a renter got COVID after eviction), or one year in jail, or both. If a death occurs as a result of an eviction, the fine rises to no more than $250,000. If it’s an organization in violation, the fines are $200,000 or $500,000.

What are best practices for managing requests from renters asking for eviction relief?

This eviction moratorium is clearly disappointing to landlords and will likely create a flood of emails, phone calls and SMS about this new CDC order. The best strategy is to create a way for resident to reach out to your team in a manner that structures the data, assigns responsibility to teammates and standardize responses in a professional manner. We’ve assembled some useful templates and best practices for everyone looking for ways to manage this process with confidence.

1. Setup an online form for renters asking for eviction relief to complete

Create a simple online survey that forces the resident to acknowledge the CDC requirements before applying for relief. Here’s what a sample survey can look like:

CDC Eviction Ban

Form to convey CDC eviction relief requirements.

2. Standardize your communication

When a renter reaches out to ask about the new CDC order, it’s best to have a standardized communication template that all property managers can use. We’ve crafted a sample email that you can copy here:

Hi {{firstname}},
The Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an order to temporarily halt evictions through the end of the year. This order is a temporary eviction moratorium to prevent the further spread of COVID-19.
    • If you’re interested in learning more read the full document and requirements here.
    • To start the Tenant Declaration process, fill out this {{survey link}}
If you have any questions, please don’t reach out to our team.Stay safe,
Property Manager
@Your Company


3. Create an auto responder for renters that complete the survey

Guide the renter to review the CDC guidelines and create a simple FAQa page to answer common questions. Here’s a simple example of an auto responder we crafted:

 

Hi {{firstname}},

Thank you for submitting your information. While we review your information, please review the CDC guidelines.

Thank you,

Property Manager

@Your Company

4. Prepare a formal application for the renter to sign 

Once you’ve reviewed the renters submission, prepare a formal eviction relief request that the renter can sign. We’ve crafted a sample of an application to formalize the request:

Eviction Moratorium – Tenant Declaration

Eviction Moratorium – Tenant Declaration


5. Track renters requesting eviction relief in a shared location

Create a shared location where you can keep track of all the renters that have requested relief. It’s best to create a file of all correspondence you’ve had with the contacts that are named on the lease with well documented details of each interaction with your team.

Want to automate this process?

Sign up for a free trial of Aptly and streamline this entire process. Aptly will provide you with:

  • A shared inbox for your team to work together in handling these eviction relief requests
  • Communication templates pre-loaded into your account to make responding fast and easy
  • An online survey for renters to complete that automatically capture responses in a shared location to manage
  • A way to bulk send all renters requesting eviction relief a formal application to sign and return
  • A centralized location to track the process, organize all communication with renters and have it available if/when you need to start the eviction process

Your Aptly free trial include a board where you can track each completed survey, assign it to a teammate, collaborate with internal notes and track all communication with the renter.

Aptly Task Boards

Manage your residents submissions from an Aptly task board.

Send mass emails or SMS to your renter with Aptly’s inbox, where we’ve loaded up our templates and each message can be personalized with merge fields.

Send bulk messages via SMS or email with personalized content.

Don’t have the time to set this all up? No worries, we are here to help! If you’re interested in getting this workflow or one of the dozens of others we offer configured in your aptly account, we are here to help! Please share your thoughts and reactions in the comments below.

 Ready to get started? Sign up for a free trial today!

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