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Facing eviction? Here's how to get protection under the new federal moratorium

The CDC estimates as many as 40 million Americans are at-risk of eviction. Attorneys from northeast Ohio said eviction hearings are now on the upswing after the CARES Act's eviction moratorium expired July 24.
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WASHINGTON — Using emergency health powers, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention late Tuesday enacted a temporary federal moratorium on evictions, nearly 40 days after the previous federal moratorium expired.

Given the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on American livelihoods, the CDC estimates as many as 40 million Americans are at risk of eviction since the federal moratorium included in the CARES Act expired July 24 — a wave of evictions “unprecedented in modern times,” reads the new order.

The new order can halt evictions nationwide through Dec. 31.

John Petit, housing attorney manager for the nonprofit Community Legal Aid, which offers legal representation to low-income households, said his office has seen an uptick in eviction cases in Youngstown since the recent moratorium expired. When he spoke with Mahoning Matters Tuesday, he’d just come from an eviction hearing in Massillon.

“I think it’s a really welcome moratorium and much-needed for tenants,” Petit said. “There’s not been enough rental assistance out here to cover it.”

Petit said he’s still learning the mechanics of the order, but said there are several qualifiers tenants need to meet. They also must notify their landlords of their hardship, by issuing a legal declaration,

Under the declaration, which should be signed by all adults in the household, tenants must be prepared to show:

  • The individual has used best efforts to obtain all available government assistance for rent or housing;
  • The individual either: 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); was not required to report any income in 2019 to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service; or 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.

The declaration acts as sworn legal testimony, meaning renters who use it may be prosecuted, jailed or fined for lying, misleading or omitting important information, according to the order.

Renters will still be on the hook for the full amount of rent accrued during this period.

Petit said there are still a lot of unanswered legal questions about how the order will work.

Tenants who want to learn more can watch Community Legal Aid’s weekly eviction clinics, which are hosted on its website on Tuesdays. The next clinic will likely focus on the new moratorium, Petit said.

Tenants may also apply for legal aid online or call Community Legal Aid’s Tenant Assistance Hotline at 330-983-2528 to speak with an attorney.

A model for the legal declaration is attached to the end of the CDC’s order, starting on page 33:

 

 



Justin Dennis

About the Author: Justin Dennis

Justin Dennis has been on the beat since 2011, covering crime, courts and public education. Dennis grew up in Poland and Salem and studied journalism and communications at Cleveland State University and University of Pittsburgh.
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