Housing Stability During COVID-19

CDC Eviction Moratorium

To protect public health and slow the spread of COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued an order that protects some residential tenants who have fallen behind on rent from being evicted until 2021.

This moratorium is not automatic and there are steps tenants must take to avoid an eviction.

It stops the landlord from taking action to evict a tenant for unpaid rent, including:
  • Asking the court for a ‘writ of eviction’
  • Sheriff conducting the eviction
  • Harassing or intimidating a tenant to “vacate”
Tenant of a residential property who provides a sworn declaration to landlord that the following are true:
 
  1. Tenant has used best efforts to obtain all available government assistance for rent or housing.
  2. Tenant meets income limit:
    • $99,000 or less income; or
    • Received stimulus check; or
    • Not required to report income in 2019
  3. Unable to pay rent due to:
    • Substantial loss of household income; or
    • Extraordinary medical expenses
  4. Uses best efforts to pay partial rent (as close to full as circumstances permit)
  5. Would likely become homeless or forced to live in close quarters in shared
    housing if evicted (including stay in hotel/motel)
  • Continue to pay as much rent as you can.
  • Apply for government rental and housing assistance. Document your efforts!
  • Sign a declaration under penalty of perjury and give it to your landlord.
    • Here is the CDC Declaration.
    • Keep a signed copy for your records.
    • Each adult on the lease should complete their own declaration.
    • If you have questions, call the Eviction Legal Helpline for advice before signing the declaration.
  • Landlords can still evict for non-rent violations
  • It does not forgive rent – tenants still owe rent as required in the lease agreement.
  • It will not help tenants get back in their home if they have already been evicted.
  • There are criminal penalties (for both tenants and landlords) for violating the rules of the CDC order.

Get a 60-day Delay on Your Eviction Case

If your landlord is suing you for an eviction and you have lost income due to COVID-19, you can ask the court to delay your case for 60 days.  To delay your eviction case, you must have lost income between March 12 and your eviction case due to COVID-19 and show up to your first court date.

To get the 60-day delay:

 
  1. Show up to your first court date
  2. Bring written proof that you lost income between March 12 and your court date:
    • A paystub showing zero dollars in earnings.
    • A furlough notification letter from your employer.
    • An “essential employee status letter” stating that you were “nonessential.”
    • A signed affidavit by you stating that you lost wages during this period due to the COVID-19 emergency.
  3. Ask the judge for a 60-day “continuance.”

Does the CARES Act Protect Me?

Depending on the type of housing you live in and reason for the eviction, you may be covered by a federal law called The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Although the CARES Act moratorium expired on July 25, 2020, tenants who were covered by the moratorium are entitled to more notice of an eviction than tenants who are not covered.

Tenants covered by the CARES Act are entitled to a 30-day notice of eviction for nonpayment, rather than a 5-day notice usually required by state law.

The CARES Act applies to subsidized housing and private properties that are backed by federal guarantees mortgages. Talk to a lawyer if you have questions or need help finding out if your housing is covered by the CARES act.

 

Subsidized Housing

  • “Section 8” and “Rural Development” Housing Vouchers
  • Section 9 Project-based housing (Public Housing)
  • HUD-subsidized senior housing and other HUD subsidized housing
  • USDA-subsidized housing
  • Tax Credit or “LIHTC” Housing
 
 

Private, non-subsidized housing where the landlord has a federally backed mortgage:

  • HUD (including FHA) mortgage
  • USDA mortgage
  • VA (Veteran Affairs) mortgage
  • Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac mortgage


Can my landlord charge me late fees right now?
If your rental unit is covered by the CARES Act, your landlord CANNOT charge late fees right now. You still owe ongoing rent.

Foreclosed Property
Person being evicted is the former owner – A former homeowner living in a property that is sold at foreclosure becomes a tenant “at sufferance” until the new owner terminates their tenancy. The new owner of must give the former owner (now tenant at sufferance) a 3-day written notice terminating the tenancy. After the expiration of the three days, the new owner can file an Unlawful Detainer to get possession of the home. The new owner can sue the former homeowner for fair market rent from the date of the foreclosure until the date the former homeowner leaves, as well as damages and reasonable attorneys’ fees and court costs.

  • Person being evicted is a tenant of the former owner
    New owners who buy property in a foreclosure sale must honor existing leases. The landlord, old or new, cannot evict a tenant with more than 90 days remaining in the lease term. There is one exception: if the new owner intends to occupy the property as a primary residence, the new owner may end the lease early with 90 days’ written notice. To terminate a lease with less than 90 days left in the lease term, the landlord must give 90 days’ written notice that the lease will end. There is one exception: if the new owner intends to occupy the property as a primary residence, the new owner may end the lease early with 90 days’ notice.
  • Property that is uninhabitable due to fire, flooding, other accident
    If the property becomes uninhabitable due to fire, flooding, or some other accident, the landlord or tenant can end the lease by giving 14 days’ written notice. The landlord must return the security deposit and any pre-paid rent
If you live in housing covered by the CARES Act, your landlord cannot charge you late fees or begin an eviction case against you for unpaid rent until July 25, 2020. After that, your landlord must give you a written notice at least 30 days before filing an eviction case against you in court.
Your landlord can still file an eviction lawsuit against you for other reasons. If you live in subsidized housing, there may be other protections that apply and should consult an attorney.

If your rental unit is covered by the CARES Act, your landlord CANNOT charge late fees right now. You still owe ongoing rent.

I Need Help Paying Rent

There is government assistance available for people who are behind on rent. The rent relief program provides short-term financial assistance in the form of rent and mortgage payments.

Program Guidelines

  • Tenant must have income loss related to COVID-19; the program accepts a lot of different reasons for income loss, so if you lost income since mid-March 2020 you should apply.
  • Tenants must have a written lease with their landlord or other written proof that they are a tenant.
  • Monthly rent amount must be at or below 150% fair market rent; the rent relief program will let you know if you qualify once you tell them the amount of rent you pay.
  • Payments can be applied to any rent that accrued since April 1, 2020.
  • Covers current rent payments up to three months if tenant remains eligible (unable to pay rent without assistance).
  • The program will also give precedence to households without other federal and state eviction or foreclosure protections.
  • From June 29 to July 20, priority will be given to households with incomes equal to or below 50 percent of Area Median Income.
  • After July 20, households with current gross incomes at or below 80 percent of AMI will also be included.
  • Households with an unlawful detainer action dated prior to June 8 will be given top consideration.

 

To identify the local organization administering the program and to conduct a self-assessment for eligibility, visit dhcd.virginia.gov/eligibility or call 211 VIRGINIA by dialing 2-1-1 from your phone.

If you fall behind on rent payments, it is a good idea to ask your landlord for a payment plan to pay off the balance. Get any payment plan in writing. Make sure the agreement includes:

  • A statement of how much is owed
  • A schedule of payment dates and amounts due
  • Details on whether the amount due is in addition to the rent
  • A discount if you pay off the balance early
  • A guarantee from the landlord not to initiate an eviction as a condition of adhering to the payment plan.

If you live in an apartment covered under the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program, you may qualify for a financial hardship exemption. The Public Housing Authority that issues the voucher must grant an exemption from payment of minimum rent if the family is experiencing a financial hardship. Financial hardship includes:

  • When the family would be evicted because it is unable to pay the minimum rent;
  • When the income of the family has decreased because of changed circumstances, including loss of employment;
  • When a death has occurred in the family.

If a family requests a financial hardship exemption, the PHA must suspend the minimum rent requirement beginning the month following the family’s request for a hardship exemption and continuing until the PHA determines whether there is a qualifying financial hardship and whether it is temporary or long term.

Starting July 1, 2020, Pilot Eviction Diversion Programs began in the cities of Danville, Hampton, Petersburg, and Richmond. Tenants facing an eviction in the participating cities may be eligible to enter into a court mandated payment plan. To qualify, the tenant must:

  1. Appear in court on the first court date and request to have the case referred into the Program;
  2. Pay to the landlord or into the court at least 25 percent of the amount due on the unlawful detainer
  3. Provide sworn testimony that the tenant is employed and has sufficient funds to make the payments under the court payment plan, or otherwise has sufficient funds to make such payments
  4. Provide sworn testimony explaining the reasons for being unable to make rental payments as contracted for in the rental agreement;
  5. Has not been late within the last 12 months in payment of rent as contracted for in the rental agreement at the rate of either (i) more than two times in six months or (ii) more than three times in 12 months;
  6. Has not exercised the “right of redemption” within the last six months; and
  7. Has not participated in an eviction diversion program within the last 12 months.

 

If the tenant qualifies, the court enters the landlord and tenant into a court-ordered payment plan.

  • The court will then continue the eviction case for the duration of the payment plan period.
  • If the tenant satisfies all the requirements of the payment plan agreement, the court will dismiss the eviction lawsuit.
  • If the tenant fails to make a payment under the court-ordered payment plan or to keep current monthly rental payments to the landlord, the landlord can serve written notice to the court.
  • Unless the tenant files an affidavit with the court within 10 days of the date of such notice stating that the current rent has in fact been paid and that the landlord has not properly acknowledged payment of such rent, the court must award possession of the property to the landlord.

For more information about the Eviction Diversion Program in your city, contact your local court or local legal aid program.