In spring 2020, the CARES Act placed a partial moratorium on evictions across the country. Many states and cities implemented their own more stringent eviction bans, barring landlords from starting the eviction process.
That 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, and properties still requiring maintenance.
While landlords could not file for eviction, tenants were still technically obligated to pay their rents, and after the eviction moratoriums expire, back rent will still be due. That leaves many housing experts fearful of an eviction crisis looming in 2021.
So, where do these moratoriums on evictions stand in early 2021? 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 blocks landlords from filing for eviction against any tenants who meet the following criteria:
- The tenant “used best efforts to obtain all available government assistance for rent or housing,”
- They earned no more than $99,000 in income for Calendar Year 2020-2021 ($198,000 for married couples filing jointly), were not required to report any income in 2019 to the IRS, or received a stimulus check from of the CARES Act,
- They can’t pay the full rent or make a full housing payment due to substantial loss of household income, loss of compensable hours of work or wages, a lay-off, or extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses
- The renter is “using best efforts to make timely partial payments that are as close to the full payment as the individual’s circumstances may permit, taking into account other non-discretionary expenses,” and
- Eviction would likely render the individual homeless—or force the individual to move into and live in close quarters in a new congregate or shared living setting—because the individual has no other available housing options.
Originally set to expire at midnight on December 31, 2020, the second stimulus package passed by Congress extended the moratorium on evictions through January 31, 2021. The second stimulus package also includes $25 billion in rental assistance for households facing income drops due to the pandemic, an addition welcomed by landlords and tenants alike.
As one of its first acts on Inauguration Day, the Biden Administration extended it again through March 31, 2021.
In late February, U.S. District Court Judge J. Campbell Barker ruled the eviction ban as unconstitutional. He stopped short of issuing a preliminary injunction, but said he expects the CDC to lift the ban.
Not only did the Biden Administration (via the CDC) not lift the moratorium, but two days before it expired, they extended it again, this time through June 30.
The $1.9 trillion stimulus/relief bill known as the American Rescue Plan includes $30 billion in additional funding for emergency rent relief programs. It also extends unemployment benefits — a boon for legitimately unemployed tenants struggling to make rent payments.
City & State Eviction Moratoriums
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.
California Eviction Moratorium
On August 31, 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill No. 3088, which bans evictions through January 31, 2021 (now extended through June 30, 2021). Specifically, it bans evictions for non-payment of rent between March 4 – August 31, 2020 due to a pandemic-related hardship. To qualify for the eviction protection, the tenant must provide a declaration of hardship.
For eviction protection for rent owed between September 1, 2020 – January 31, 2021 (later extended through June 30, 2021), tenants must pay at least 25% of the rent due. Landlords may not collect late fees during this period. For more details, check out this resource.
Note that landlords may still evict tenants for other lease violations, such as criminal activity. The California eviction moratorium only applies to nonpayment of rent due to a COVID-19 hardship.
As many California counties continue to suffer high unemployment rates, don’t be surprised if the state continues shifting the unemployment problem to landlords rather than providing better unemployment benefits and support to needy renters.
California also declared a utility shutoff moratorium for nonpayment until at least April 16, 2021 for most utilities.
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Los Angeles Eviction Moratorium
The Los Angeles County Temporary Eviction Moratorium went into effect from March 4, 2020 through June 30, 2021. But beware, it may well be extended by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.
It goes further than the already-strict California eviction moratorium. Landlords may not evict tenants for nonpayment of rent, noise violations, nuisance, or unauthorized occupants or pets. Technically, the law states that the violation must be related to COVID-19, but evictions have effectively ceased in Los Angeles County.
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 “no fault evictions” through June 30, 2021. An intentional misnomer designed for political branding, “no fault evictions” are not evictions at all but simply non-renewal of lease agreements when the term comes to an end. San Francisco’s law forces landlords to continue renewing lease contracts, even to bad tenants or in situations where the landlord has other intentions for the property, such as moving in themselves or making overdue renovations.
San Diego Eviction Moratorium
Contrary to many San Diego landlords’ concerns, the City of San Diego has not placed any additional eviction restrictions in place, beyond the statewide ban. Still, the California eviction moratorium has prevented most San Diego evictions from going through.
Eviction Moratorium in New York
New York enacted even harsher eviction bans than California.
The COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act currently expires on May 1, 2021. Even so, don’t be surprised if tenant-friendly New York extends the eviction moratorium even later.
Technically, renters must submit a hardship declaration to prevent evictions. But few evictions are taking place in New York right now.
Embattled Governor Andrew Cuomo has also issued executive orders banning late fees. He will also require landlords to allow tenants to use their security deposit toward rent—which 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
The New York City Housing Court suspended all pending eviction cases until February 26, 2021. While they 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 to enforce their lease contracts any time soon.
The NYC Housing Court also suspended any eviction cases filed between December 29, 2020 and January 27, 2021 for at least 60 days.
Washington State Eviction Moratorium
Washington State enacted a comprehensive eviction moratorium early in the pandemic, then, at the end of December, Governor Jay Inslee extended it through March 31, 2021. Then he extended it again through June 30. Having already been extended twice before, it could well be extended again.
The governor has said he will be “making adjustments to provide additional support for landlords and property owners.” That support is not yet clear, but is clearly not a priority for him.
Seattle Eviction Moratorium
Seattle Major Jenny Durkan had previously extended the city’s own eviction ban through the end of March, before Governor Inslee made his statewide announcement.
Don’t expect Seattle to pass up an opportunity to show off how progressive and tenant-friendly it is. Whenever the Washington State eviction moratorium actually ends, my money is on Seattle extending theirs for a month or two longer out of principal.
Eviction Moratorium Florida
Florida had a statewide eviction moratorium that expired on September 30, 2020 and was not extended. Florida renters are, of course, protected against nonpayment of rent evictions by the nationwide moratorium.
It’s worth noting that Florida renters are at higher risk of eviction than most. An independent study by AdvisorSmith found that 15.6% of Florida renters are at risk of eviction in early 2021, second only to South Carolina (21.1%). AdvisorSmith explain their methodology as follows: “We calculated the percentage of households that are behind on their rent payments, which we combined with data on the percentage of late-paying households that expect to be evicted in the next two months, in order to find the states where renters are at highest risk of eviction.”
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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.
For now, at least. The TEDP will expire on March 15, 2021 if not extended.
Connecticut Eviction Moratorium
While landlords can file in court for evictions, Connecticut courts are ordered to stay all eviction proceedings. Further, Connecticut law enforcement may not physically remove any renters currently.
Landlords may not charge late fees, and utilities are ordered to work out payment schedules with customers who have lost income due to the pandemic.
These rules stay in effect until the state of Connecticut declares an end to the public health emergency. While currently set to expire on April 20, 2021, they’ve been repeatedly extended and may well be extended again.
Massachusetts Eviction Moratorium
There is no statewide eviction ban in Massachusetts beyond the CDC moratorium.
Governor Charlie Baker had enacted and then extended a Massachusetts eviction moratorium, which expired on October 17, 2020. However Governor Baker did create $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.
Eviction Moratorium in Boston
The City of Boston has extended an eviction ban in public housing until March 31, 2021. It does not apply to private landlords.
Nevada Eviction Moratorium
In December 2020, Governor Steve Sisolak extended Nevada’s eviction ban through March 31, 2021. 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.
Michigan Eviction Moratorium
Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer signed AB 3088 in August 2020, banning evictions for nonpayment of rent through January 31, 2021. However, tenants must pay at least 25% of their rent due between September 1, 2020 and January 31, 2021 to avoid eviction.
Indiana Eviction Moratorium
Indiana had previously passed a statewide moratorium on evictions, which expired in mid-August 2020. Currently, Indiana falls under the nationwide CDC moratorium.
However Indiana does have a rent mediation program in place for struggling renters and landlords.
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. States such as Illinois and Maryland may well enact their own eviction moratoriums after the federal restrictions ease.
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 brace themselves for a long, lean 2021 as the federal, state, and local governments all potentially extend eviction bans repeatedly.
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?