landlord legal liability

Some US landlords haven’t been able to evict nonpaying tenants since Spring 2020.

First the CARES Act placed a partial moratorium on evictions across the country. Then the CDC declared a nationwide eviction moratorium after it expired, first scheduled to end 12/31/20, then later extended no fewer than five times. Most recently scheduled to expire on 10/3/21, on 8/26/21 the Supreme Court ruled the extension unconstitutional. That has opened the door for landlords to enforce their leases once again.

However many states and cities implemented their own stringent eviction bans, barring landlords from starting the eviction process

So, where do these moratoriums on evictions stand entering Spring 2022? Here’s what landlords need to know, both on a national level and in key states and cities. 

Nationwide Moratorium on Evictions (CDC)

The original CARES Act eviction moratorium expired in late July 2020, only to be replaced by a far more comprehensive eviction ban by the CDC. It blocked landlords from filing for eviction against most US tenants, and was extended five times before the US Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional on 8/26/21.

Landlords can now initiate the eviction process once again on tenants in violation of their lease. At least in states and cities without their own eviction ban.

The federal moratorium made lease agreements effectively one-way legal contracts. Landlords had to continue providing their service, but tenants could break their obligations with no enforcement mechanism in place for landlords. That left many landlords pinched with no rental income but lenders still demanding mortgage payments, local governments still demanding property taxes, properties still requiring maintenance, and insurance companies still sending bills. 

While landlords could not file for eviction, tenants were still technically obligated to pay their rents, and after the eviction moratoriums expired, back rent is still due. That left many housing experts fearful of an eviction crisis in 2021, but it simply didn’t happen

The “American Rescue Plan” and other federal initiatives include $47 billion in additional funding for emergency rent relief programs, which have rolled out slowly and with much confusion. It also extends unemployment benefits — a boon for legitimately unemployed tenants struggling to make rent payments.

Remaining State Eviction Moratoriums: Overview

Beyond the federal moratorium on evictions, many states and individual cities have put their own eviction bans in place. 

Consider the following a quick summary of the largest eviction moratoriums in place on the state and city levels that local landlords need to understand before breaching them unwittingly.

As a quick reference guide, here are the remaining states that impose an eviction moratorium of some sort or another, as of 1/14/22:

Connecticut: Landlords can’t file for eviction unless they’ve applied for federal rental assistance.

Massachusetts: Landlords can’t evict tenants if they have a pending application in for rent assistance, through April 2022.

Minnesota: Landlords cannot evict renters with pending COVID-19 rental assistance applications. The moratorium is scheduled to end on June 1, 2022.

Nevada: Landlords can’t evict tenants if they have a pending application in for rent assistance.

New Jersey: Landlords can now file to evict most delinquent tenants, but not those earning 120% of the county’s median income who owe rents between March 1, 2020 and Aug. 31, 2021.

New Mexico: Tenants can pause eviction for nonpayment of rent if they can prove they are unable to pay it.

New York: Eviction moratorium expired 1/15/22, for “tenants who’ve endured a Covid-related setback or for whom moving could pose a health risk.” Landlords also can’t evict tenants if they have a pending application in for rent assistance.

Oregon: Landlords can’t evict tenants if they apply for rent assistance between now and 6/30/22. Those tenants have a “safe harbor” from eviction until 9/30/22, or until their application is cancelled or denied.

Washington DC: The phase out of the eviction moratorium ended on 2/22/22, and landlords can start filing for evictions again.

Below are more details about select states and cities.

California Eviction Moratorium

The statewide California eviction moratorium ended on September 30, 2021. It included $5 billion in federal rental assistance to landlords and tenants, although that aid was slow to reach renters and landlords.

 

Los Angeles Eviction Moratorium

The Los Angeles County Temporary Eviction Moratorium went into effect from March 4, 2020 through June 30, 2021. The Board of Supervisors extended its coronavirus eviction moratorium through the end of September 2021, then again through December 2022.

(This is why I don’t invest in such anti-landlord cities.)

San Francisco Eviction Moratorium

Surprising no one, San Francisco enacted its own additional eviction bans on top of the California state moratorium. 

The city moratorium blocks most evictions through March 31, 2022. “In order to evict a tenant before March 31, 2022 due to non-payment of rent, the landlord must prove that they applied for government rental assistance but none was approved or received for the amount owed, and that no applications are pending for such rental assistance (whether filed by the landlord or tenant).” See the San Francisco Rent Board for details.

Connecticut Eviction Moratorium

Landlords in Connecticut must currently give tenants a 30 day, rather than a 3 day, appeal period before filing for eviction.

Further, they can’t file for eviction unless they’ve filed for federal assistance through the UniteCT portal. For more details, see Governor Ned Lamont’s executive order rules.

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Eviction Moratorium in Minnesota

As of October 12, 2021, Minnesota landlords can’t currently evict tenants who have pending COVID-19 rental assistance applications.

These protections are scheduled to end on June 1, 2022. For more detailed information visit Minnesota Housing’s RentHelpMN website.

 

Eviction Moratorium in New Jersey

New Jersey’s eviction ban for lower income renters ended 12/31/21.

Renters earning 120% of the county’s median income remain exempt from eviction for missing rents between March 1, 2020, and Aug. 31, 2021.

 

Eviction Moratorium in New Mexico

New Mexico’s eviction moratorium remains in place as of March 2022. However the state is launching a program to funnel federal rent relief money to landlords, and says they’ll have enough to catch up all delinquent tenants and pay for the next three months’ rent. After that, landlords can file eviction normally if their tenants fail to make their rent payment.

See this news story from KRQE for more details.

 

Eviction Moratorium in New York

The COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act expired on January 15, 2022 (after having been extended several times).

New York’s Office of Temporary Disability Assistance reopened the application portal for rent relief in early January, and landlords cannot file evictions while tenant applications are pending. Considering that New York ran out of money to fund rent relief for landlords, it sounds like an eviction moratorium by another name.

Former governor Andrew Cuomo also issued executive orders banning late fees and requiring landlords to allow tenants to use their security deposit toward rent. That leaves landlords completely unprotected in the case of tenant damage to their units.

The law does add some minor protections for landlords against foreclosure. But landlords still need to pay their outstanding mortgage balances, and the late payments still ruin their credit history.

 

NYC Eviction Moratorium

While New York City eviction cases have technically resumed since then, tenants can halt their eviction by filing a hardship declaration.

In other words, New York City landlords shouldn’t expect smooth evictions.

 

Oregon Eviction Moratorium

Landlords cannot initiate eviction proceedings if their tenant has applied for rent assistance. This rule remains in effect through at least June 30, 2022.

Further, landlords cannot file for eviction for at least 60 days after tenants notify them of their application for rent assistance. In Multnomah County, the delay is 90 days.

 

Washington State Eviction Moratorium

Washington State’s eviction moratorium expired October 31, 2021.

 

Seattle Eviction Moratorium

Seattle Major Jenny Durkan had previously extended the city’s own eviction ban several times, on top of state and federal moratoriums.

Seattle’s eviction ban ended February 28, 2022, per Mayor Bruce Harrell.

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Washington D.C. Eviction Moratorium

As of October 12, 2021, landlords may now start filing for eviction for nonpayment of rent under the following circumstances:

    • The tenant owes more than $600, and
    • The landlord has applied for relief on behalf of the tenant through an existing DC rental relief program, and
    • The landlord gave the tenant a 60 days past-due notice.

As of January 1, 2022, landlords can resume eviction filings normally. However some protections remained in place through February 22, 2022.

Read more at the DC Bar’s website.

Other Eviction Policies Around the Country

Here are a few other eviction-related policies in select states across the US.

Massachusetts Eviction Moratorium

In Massachusetts, rental assistance protections have been extended, and landlords cannot file to evict tenants with a rental assistance case pending.

Governor Charlie Baker created $171 million in new funds aimed to help renters who lost work due to the pandemic. Rather than shifting the financial burden entirely on landlords, the state provided assistance to these renter households, keeping rents and landlord mortgage payments flowing.

In June 2021, Gov. Baker signed a bill (now codified as Chapter 20 of the Acts of 2021) extending some specific Covid-19 related eviction protections for tenants. Among the measures extended was Chapter 257 of the Acts of 2020. This imposed a temporary stay on eviction cases and move-out orders where tenants applied for short term emergency rental assistance. Millions of dollars in rental aid have been flowing into Massachusetts, and both landlords and tenants alike have been taking advantage of the influx of federal funds to pay down rent arrearages and secure new housing. The stay on cases where a RAFT (Residential Assistance for Families in Transition) application is pending is extended through April 1, 2022.

 

Nevada Eviction Moratorium

In December 2020, Governor Steve Sisolak extended Nevada’s eviction ban through March 31, 2021, then in March he extended it again through May 31, 2021 (when it did expire). You can read the full details in his Emergency Directive 036

He modified it, however, to only cover renters who can document that their financial hardship was due to the coronavirus pandemic, and that they would become homeless or forced to move into shared housing if evicted. 

Presently, landlords can’t file to evict renters who have a rent assistance case pending.

 

Texas Eviction Moratorium

Texas does not impose a statewide moratorium on evictions. Instead, Texas offers a solution that protects both parties: a rental assistance program.

The Texas Eviction Diversion Program (TEDP) provides rent help for renters who lost income due to the pandemic and fell behind on their rent payments. The program covers up to five months of unpaid rents, and dismisses the eviction case to keep renters in their homes. To add further protection for renters, the judge seals the record of participation so it does not appear in public records and therefore in future tenant screening reports when the tenant applies for a new home. 

Tenants stay in their homes, landlords continue receiving rental income, lenders keep receiving landlord mortgage payments, and unpayable back rents don’t pile up for renters. Everybody wins. 

Full details at TXCourts.gov.

 

Final Thoughts

Many states have let their eviction moratoriums lapse, under the comprehensive nationwide ban. However when the nationwide moratorium ends — whenever that may be — watch out for more tenant-friendly states re-implementing their own eviction bans.

With many tenants struggling to pay rents, many property owners have struggled to make their landlord mortgage payments. Many real estate investors have second-guessed whether to continue investing during the pandemic, between the eviction moratorium and weakening rental returns nationwide. Landlords with non-paying tenants should watch eviction moratoriums closely and file as soon as allowed. 

If your tenants are struggling to find work, help them research rent assistance programs to keep them (and you) afloat and your lender at bay. Because for now, lease contracts remain enforceable only in one direction. 

Have your tenants continued making full rent payments throughout the last year? If not, how have you continued covering your landlord mortgage and other expenses as a landlord?

 

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