Eviction refers to the legal process in which a court orders the removal of a tenant from a rented apartment or home, based on a request from the landlord. The requesting landlord must have a justified and specific reason as to why the tenant should be evicted.
Because eviction results in the displacement of the tenant, and can frequently lead to homelessness, it is absolutely imperative that all other options be exhausted before pursuing eviction. Although landlords have no legal obligation to do so, they do have an ethical obligation to consider how their actions will affect their tenant.
There are many different cited reasons for pursuing eviction proceedings, including:
- The tenant has stopped paying their rent for a certain amount of time;
- The tenant or their guests have caused substantial or irreparable damage to the rental property;
- The tenant has breached the terms of their lease or rental agreement, such as smoking in a non-smoking building or keeping pets despite no-pet conditions in the lease; and/or
- The tenant refuses to move out once their lease has expired, and is now considered to be a squatter.
Although most eviction actions occur between a tenant and a landlord associated with a residential property site, the process can also be used to remove tenants from rented commercial buildings as well. However, it is important to note that the eviction process generally involves many steps which have strict legal requirements for both the tenant and the landlord. Eviction requirements are governed by specific state laws, meaning that they will vary depending on the jurisdiction or the state in which the eviction occurs.
In the past, the law traditionally sided with landlords when it came to evictions. However, the more modern and often informed trend is for courts to side with the tenants. Tenants should keep in mind that they have a number of legal defenses that could be used against a landlord’s eviction notice. These defenses can help prove that the eviction is unfair, unethical, or that there is no legitimate reason to evict them in the first place.
What Is an Eviction Ban?
An eviction ban is just as it sounds: for a set amount of time, the federal and/or state government bans landlords from evicting tenants for failing to pay rent. Such bans generally occur during times of great national or economic distress.
Eviction bans are intended to reduce the negative impacts of such events and are generally viewed as appropriate aid, given the circumstances.
Are There any Eviction Bans Related to COVID-19 Issues?
The federal government is taking steps to reduce the devastating impact of the COVID-19 crisis on tenants. Many states, cities, and counties are doing the same at the local level to provide for their citizens when the federal government does not provide a sufficient amount of protection. Such measures include:
- Placing moratoriums, or bans, on eviction proceedings;
- Placing holds on shutting off utilities because of nonpayment; and
- Prohibiting landlords from charging late rent fees.
It is important to note that information regarding COVID-19 and eviction bans is rapidly changing and updating. As such, it is recommended that you familiarize yourself with your state, town, and county’s provisions regarding the matter. Typically, the most current rules on eviction during a crisis may be found in your State’s most recent “Emergency Orders.”
As of August 3rd, 2021, the CDC issued an agency order under the title of Temporary Halt in Residential Evictions In Communities With Substantial or High Levels of Community Transmission of COVID-19 to Prevent the Further Spread of COVID-19 (the “Order”). It is imperative to note that although this Order went into effect immediately, it is not retroactive. This means that the order does not ban or stop evictions that were filed prior to the Order being issued.
At the federal level, the Order prohibits residential landlords nationwide from evicting specific tenants through October 3, 2021. This includes tenants who:
- Have utilized best efforts in order to obtain available government assistance for housing;
- Are unable to pay their full rent because of a substantial loss of income;
- Have utilized their best efforts to make timely and partial rent payments;
- Will become homeless, or be forced to move into a shared living arrangement, if they were to be evicted; and
- Live in a county which is experiencing substantial or high rates of community transmission levels of COVID-19 as defined by the CDC.
In addition to this criteria, tenants are required to meet one of these financial requirements:
- The tenant must have earned no more than $99,000, or $198,000 if filing jointly, in 2020, or expect to earn no more than these numbers in 2021;
- The tenant must not have been required to report any of their income to the IRS in 2020; or
- The tenant must have received a stimulus check pursuant to Section 2201 of the CARES Act, Section 9601 of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, or pursuant to any other similar federally authorized payments made to individuals in 2021 and 2021.
Eligible tenants must complete a declaration under penalty of perjury that they meet the criteria as listed in the Order. The CDC has provided a form declaration that you can use for this purpose.
What if I’m Being Evicted Due to a Coronavirus Issue? What Protections Do I Have?
If you are being evicted due to a coronavirus issue, there are certain protections in place. Anyone who violates the most recent Order may face criminal penalties such as fines and jail time.
Individual states can still ban evictions, as well as enact other tenant protections which can provide more protection than the federal Order. What this means is that tenants who do not meet the aforementioned criteria for protection under the federal ban could still be protected from being evicted under applicable state or local orders. Once again, information regarding coronavirus-related eviction bans is rapidly changing and varies widely from state to state.
What Other Tenant Protections Are Related to Coronavirus?
In terms of other tenant protections related to coronavirus, you may wish to see if your utility providers have taken the Federal Communications Commission’s (“FCC”) Keep Americans Connected pledge. This pledge is to refrain from disconnecting residential or small business customers during the coronavirus pandemic.
Sources of Coronavirus Assistance for Landlords and Tenants provides a list of federal, state, local, non-profit, and private sources of financial assistance. The site also provides other applicable resources for both tenants and landlords.
The National Low Income Housing Coalition has provided an Emergency Rental Assistance Dashboard. With this dashboard, you can research local sources for rental assistance. And, if you need to determine the median income of where you live in order to determine if you qualify for specific types of assistance, you should utilize Fannie Mae’s Area Median Income Lookup Tool.
Should I Contact a Lawyer for COVID-19 Eviction Issues?
If you are facing COVID-19 eviction issues, you should consult with a local experienced landlord tenant lawyer immediately. It is imperative that you are not homeless during the COVID-19 crisis, and you have specific rights that must be protected.
An experienced landlord tenant attorney can provide you with the most relevant and up to date advice regarding eviction procedures and protections for your city and state. An attorney will help you fight your eviction, and can also represent you in court, as needed.