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The Center for Disease Control (CDC) issued an Order on September 4th, 2020, under Section 361 of the Public Health Service Act to temporarily halt residential evictions. This Order is effective from September 4th through December 31st, 2020 and is intended to prevent the further spread of COVID-19.
This CDC Order is different from its predecessor, the CARES Act. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) expired on July 24th. The CARES Act only applied to tenants and landlords who participated in federal housing assistance programs or who leased property that was burdened by a federally backed mortgage.
In contrast, the CDC’s Order applies to all tenants that meet the following criteria:
In order to utilize this protection, a tenant, lessee, or resident of a residential property must provide a completed and signed copy of a declaration to their landlord, owner of the residential property where they live, or other person who has the right to have them evicted or removed from where they live. Individuals are not obligated to use the CDC form. Any written document that an eligible individual presents to their landlord will comply with the Order, as long as it contains the same information as the CDC declaration form.
All declarations, regardless of the form used, must be signed, and must include a statement that the covered person understands that they could be liable for perjury for any false or misleading statements or omissions in the declaration. People are also allowed to use a form translated in other languages, so long as they contain the required information. Most importantly, to seek protections of the Order, each adult listed on the lease, rental agreement, or housing contract should complete and sign a declaration and provide it to the landlord where they live. The only situation where it may be appropriate for one person to sign a declaration on behalf of another is if they are also filing a joint tax return.
Any evictions for nonpayment of rent that may have been initiated prior to September 4, but have yet to be completed, will be subject to the Order. Thus, any tenant who qualifies as a “Covered Person” and is still present in a rental unit is entitled to protections under the Order. Any eviction that occurred prior to September 4, 2020 is not subject to the Order.
One important point to keep in mind is that, even if you are a covered person, you still owe rent to your landlord. The Order halts residential evictions only temporarily. Covered persons still must fulfill their obligations to pay rent and follow all other terms of their lease. Nothing in the Order precludes landlords from charging or collecting fees, penalties, or interest because of the failure to pay rent or other lease payment on a timely basis, if provided for in the lease. Under the Order, tenants may still be evicted for reasons other than not making payment of rent.
There are heavy, criminal consequences for landlords who violate the CDC’s Order. A person who violates the Order may be subject to a fine of no more than $100,000 or one year in jail, or both, if the violation does not result in death. A person violating the Order may be subject to a fine of no more than $250,000 or one year in jail, or both, if the violation results in death or as otherwise provided by law. An organization violating the Order may be subject to a fine of no more than $200,000 per event if the violation does not result in a death or $500,000 per event if the violation results in a death or as otherwise provided by law. However, the Order does not preclude the landlord from challenging the truthfulness of the tenant’s declaration in any state or municipal court.
Whether you are the tenant or the landlord, the Order CDC’s is relevant to you. It is important to understand the ins and outs of the Order in order to fully benefit from it. To make the most of it, call one of the lawyers at Berkshire and Burmeister today.