Posted March 29, 20219:41 am
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Monday that it will extend through June its moratorium on evictions, which was set to expire at the end of this month. But the moratorium isn’t automatic. Legal experts say tenants need to take action to qualify for protection.
Eviction numbers have dropped since the moratorium was put into effect in September, said Abigail Staudt of the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland. But landlords can still file for eviction, she said. The tenant needs to follow certain steps to take advantage of the moratorium, she said.
“It’s not super straightforward. You have to take affirmative steps to be a covered individual,” Staudt said. “The tenant has to raise the CDC moratorium as a defense. Some of that is not super easy to navigate as a regular citizen.”
In order to use the moratorium as a defense, the tenant must prove they have made efforts to access federal aid, are earning below a certain income, are facing financial difficulties or are making an effort to provide at least partial payment, Staudt said, among other things. Tenants also need to fill out the CDC declaration and file it with housing court, she said.
The best thing a tenant can do right now is continue communicating with a landlord about their financial situation, Staudt said.
“That can sort of keep landlords in the loop of what’s going on in their financial situation and have the landlord hold off on filing that eviction,” Staudt said.
The moratorium has been extended several times during the pandemic. Legal Aid expects an onslaught of evictions once it ends, Staudt said, as residents could be facing large back payments of rent. The agency is preparing for the extension's expiration.
“Each of these periods, we’ve not known with any sort of certain terms until the last minute,” Staudt said. “We’re talking about, just a few days before the moratorium expired, we found out that it would be extended.”
The moratorium's intent is to prevent spread of the coronavirus, Staudt said, but it also provides time for families to access essential aid.
“We really wanted to make sure people could stay in place while they’re waiting for the new rent assistance and other tenant protections to be put in place,” Staudt said.
Tenants can seek financial aid through local agencies like CHN Housing Partners, Staudt said. Other programs like the Right to Counsel initiative provide access to additional resources and information on how to proceed once an eviction has been filed, she said.