A confusing and hazy executive order signed this weekend leaves the future of eviction protections in doubt. 

Has the eviction moratorium that lapsed July 25  been renewed or not? That’s a source of confusion for many after President Donald Trump signed an executive order and three memoranda on Saturday, including an order regarding eviction protections. It turns out, no protections have been extended at all.

The wording is pure legalese, but also clear enough. It starts out strong:

The CARES Act imposed a temporary moratorium on evictions of certain renters subject to certain conditions.  That moratorium has now expired, and there is a significant risk that this will set off an abnormally large wave of evictions.

And then changes course:

The Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Director of CDC shall consider whether any measures temporarily halting residential evictions of any tenants for failure to pay rent are reasonably necessary to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 from one State or possession into any other State or possession [emphasis ours].

The order stipulates four steps of government action:

  • Investigate if it’s necessary to stop evictions — as a way to help stop the coronavirus from spreading, presumably from people crossing state lines looking for new housing.
  • Identify ways to give renters and landlords financial assistance.
  • “Encouraging and providing assistance” to various organizations or individuals to help guard against evictions and foreclosures, though it isn’t clear if this includes financial help.
  • Review existing “authorities and resources,” which could include government programs.

Although the order gives the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development the green light to explore ways to fund financial assistance to tenants behind on rent, the executive order stopped short of actually banning evictions or setting up such a fund. In other words, without further action from the Trump administration or Congress, nothing has really changed — yet.

As of July 31, every benefit provided by the  CARES Act has now vanished, including the eviction moratorium. That means tenants who can’t pay rent can be legally made to leave their rental properties. Congress has stalled on another stimulus bill that might renew some protections and will likely include a  second stimulus check, but there are new hope talks can resume this week.

Regardless, rent was still due Aug. 1. and will be again Sept. 1. With no federal unemployment enhancement or rent protections in place, as many as 40% of US renters are at risk of losing their homes if the federal eviction moratorium isn’t reestablished soon,  according to Statista. 

The CARES Act’s eviction safeguard is thought to have helped as many as  23 million US families  (roughly one-third of all US renters ) stay in their homes during the coronavirus recession. Eviction notices are now legally allowed to proceed and evictions can begin starting Aug. 24. Some landlords have already reportedly filed for evictions in violation of the law, even before the protection ended. Some states have extended eviction protections for some renters, though coverage may be uneven.

What happens now that eviction protections have ended?

The federal CARES Act that was passed in March temporarily banned evictions and late fees until July 25. It also required a 30-day notice to vacate before you can be evicted. 

If you live in a property covered by the CARES Act, landlords can now legally ask you to leave and start charging late fees, but the soonest they can legally file an eviction to force you to leave is Aug. 24. As long as Congress passes an extension or renewal of the eviction ban before Aug. 24, tenants who are behind on rent should continue to be temporarily able to remain in their homes.

Does the Aug. 24 eviction stay apply?

The CARES Act protected only about one-third of rental properties in the US: specifically, those that received federal funds or were financed under a federal program like Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. It isn’t clear if Congress will broaden the scope of properties covered under the law. 

Here’s where things get tricky: If your landlord owns your building outright or finance the property without going through the handful of federal programs that guarantee most mortgages and doesn’t get any government assistance like Section 8 money, the CARES Act didn’t apply to your situation.

For tenants of single-family homes or of apartments in buildings with four or fewer units, it’s going to be tough to find out whether this or a similar law applies to you. But if you live in a multifamily property with five or more units, there’s a tool published by the National Low Income Housing Coalition that’s designed to tell you if the property where you live was covered under the CARES Act. Just enter your ZIP code and scroll through the list of properties looking for yours. (Searching within the page didn’t work for us.)

There’s one more wrinkle, however. Just because your building isn’t listed doesn’t necessarily mean it wasn’t covered — the tool only tracks properties with five or more units and it might not even cover all of those. So if you rent a single-family house or an apartment in a building with four or fewer units, it may not be listed even if the property fell under the CARES Act. 

 

 

Source: CNet Personal Finance

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