Posted May 7, 20214:26 pm
The Cleveland Housing Court has warned tenants facing eviction for not paying their rent due to the coronavirus pandemic that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s moratorium on such evictions could soon end. The warning came on the heels of a federal judge’s determination that the CDC lacked the power to undertake such a sweeping directive.
The housing court, which handles nearly half of all eviction cases in Cuyahoga County each year, said in a news release Thursday that it will continue to accept declarations required under the eviction moratorium the federal government first enacted in September. The moratorium bars the eviction of tenants for not paying rent if the reason was related to the pandemic. Renters facing that hardship must attest to that and other steps they took in a declaration.
The moratorium is set to expire June 30, but a federal judge in Washington, D.C. vacated it Wednesday following a lawsuit filed by property managers and Realtor trade associations in Alabama and Georgia.
The moratorium is still in effect, though, because the judge halted her ruling for at least 11 days, following the Justice Department’s appeal and request to put it on hold in the interim. The plaintiffs and Justice Department must file additional motions in the coming days. The judge is then expected to rule whether the CDC can enforce the moratorium during the appeals process.
All of this means that “tenants who were once protected under the CDC Eviction Moratorium may be subject to an eviction as early as May 17, 2021,” the Cleveland Housing Court’s news release said. As of now, the court still accepts declarations, and cases put on hold under the moratorium will stay on hold. Depending on what a federal court does, though, that could change.
“As the Housing Court has indicted throughout these unprecedented times, the CDC Eviction Moratorium was never permanent,” the release said. “Tenants should be reminded of their two main options to avoid being forced out of their homes – either working out an agreement with their landlord or voluntarily moving.
“Tenants who fail to do either are hereby notified that mass evictions are pending nationwide and may result in homelessness.”
The CDC first enacted the moratorium when former President Donald Trump was still in office. Both Congress and President Joe Biden’s administration extended it several times, with housing advocates saying it’s an an imperfect yet valuable tool to prevent homelessness at a time when congregating in shelters can threaten a person’s health.
In the Cleveland area, advocates have said the moratorium is a big reason why courts did not see a wave of eviction cases as workers lost their jobs and struggled to pay their rent. Eviction cases have gone forward, including those for nonpayment of rent, but research from the Eviction Lab at Princeton University showed that the number of cases filed in the Cleveland Housing Court is still below historical averages.
While tenants can face eviction for other lease violations, most eviction cases are for nonpayment of rent.
The Housing Court said tenants who need help can call court specialists at (216) 664-4295 or the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland at (216) 687-1900 to see if they qualify for a free attorney.