The Federal eviction moratorium officially ended on August 26, after a 6-3 vote by the Supreme Court ruling that the CDC’s order exceeded the agency’s authority. In response, the White House encouraged governors and mayors to issue their own state and local eviction moratoriums to help protect struggling renters.
Top Biden officials stated, “Our bottom line is this: no one should be evicted before they have the chance to apply for rental assistance, and no eviction should move forward until that application has been processed. We are encouraging all other states and local governments to use their legal authorities to appropriately put in place or extend their own eviction moratoriums.”
After the Supreme Court’s decision, the city of Boston enacted its own moratorium, joining seven states and 31 cities. Since the end of the CDC order, the state of Massachusetts has also discussed issuing a statewide eviction moratorium.
Are eviction moratoriums becoming the new normal? It’s possible, especially if the new legislation proposed by senators Elizabeth Warren and Cory Bush is passed.
The Keeping Renter’s Safe Act of 2021
The new legislation proposed on September 20 would protect renters from eviction by amending Section 361 of the Public Health Services Act. Section 361 already grants the federal government the power to respond to communicable diseases like Covid-19; however, the new act would classify evictions as a contributing factor to the spread of communicable diseases.
If passed, this act would grant agencies like the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) permanent power to enact policies to help curb the spread of communicable diseases, including federal eviction moratoria.
With at least 11 million renters behind on rent, it’s estimated 3.6 million households could face eviction over the coming months.
No Clear Answers
At this point, the Keeping Renters Safe Act is only a legislative proposal. For the act to pass and become law, it would need to be approved by Congress and signed by President Biden. However, whether it would pass remains unclear, especially since Congress had difficulty agreeing on the federal eviction moratorium over the summer. One thing to consider: the emergence of new variants and the state of the economy could spur legislators to pass the act.
Even if the Keeping Renters Safe Act isn’t passed, there’s still a good chance that local and state governments (heeding the Biden administration’s suggestion) enact their own eviction moratoriums in response to burgeoning infection rates, more dangerous variants, increased rates of eviction-related homelessness, or other unforeseen circumstances.
In the meantime, the White House has said it will implement new policies to ensure Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) dispersal is accelerated for tenants who are at the highest risk of eviction. The Department of Treasury has also created new guidance on ways households can self-attest to receive ERA funds. In addition, the Departments of Agriculture, Health, and Human Services, Veteran’s Affairs, and HUD are set to roll out more actions to help renters.
As with all things during the pandemic, there continues to be a lot of uncertainty about what the future holds. Although most of the current state-wide moratoriums are set to expire at the end of September through mid-October, it seems likely at least some of them will be extended, particularly in areas that have higher COVID-19 infection rates.
In the meantime, if your property isn’t under a moratorium and you’ve been thinking about evicting a tenant, now may be the best time to file to get ahead of the potential passing of the Keeping Renters Safe Act. If your property is under a state or local moratorium, there are several strategies you can implement to help with future non-payment of rent, as well as actions you can take if you can’t file for eviction. As it may be difficult to get rid of irresponsible renters, make sure to continue running tenant screening on all new applicants to avoid future issues.
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