The Federal Eviction Moratorium: What Renters Need to Know

The Federal Eviction Moratorium provides eviction protection for renters who have fallen on hard times and are at risk of homelessness. This program may be a helpful way to keep a roof over your head if you are struggling to pay your rent, but it does have some caveats. Namely, it doesn’t absolve you of the responsibility to pay your rent down the road. 

In this article we’ll take a closer look at what the eviction moratorium offers, who is eligible, and how you can best make use of the program. We’ll also offer some tips for talking about eviction with your landlord to ensure you maintain a good working relationship even when you can’t pay.

What is the Federal Eviction Moratorium?

The Federal Eviction Moratorium is an executive order put forth by President Donald Trump in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The goal of the order is to prevent the spread of COVID-19 which has claimed over 200,000 lives in the United States. 

With the high unemployment rate, many Americans are struggling to make ends meet and are facing homelessness. Since homelessness could lead to crowded quarters in shelters, and lack of proper hygiene, it also increases the risk of spreading COVID-19. 

As such, the government and the CDC developed this moratorium to keep individuals in their homes where they can practice good hygiene and follow social distancing or self-isolation protocols more easily.

For citizens who meet the criteria, the eviction moratorium provides protection until December 31, 2020. 

What are the criteria? 

If you earn less than $99,000 (or less than $198,000 per year for couples who file taxes jointly), you may be protected by the eviction moratorium.

If you wish to request protection under this program you will be required to sign a declaration stating:

  • You have attempted to obtain other forms of government housing assistance 
  • You are struggling or unable to pay rent because you have lost income due to lost work, lost wages, layoffs, or substantial medical fees
  • You are making efforts to pay what you can towards your rent each month
  • If you are evicted, you are likely to become homeless or be forced to live in close quarters with someone else

For full eligibility details, click here to view the declaration

How can you make use of it?

While the eviction moratorium may help keep a roof over your head if you find yourself unable to pay the rent, it should be used as a last resort.

This moratorium does not free you of your obligation to pay rent. It solely protects you from eviction. As such, when the moratorium ends, you will be on the hook for the months of back rent you were previously unable to pay.

With this in mind, if you do opt to take advantage of this protection, do your very best to find ways to make additional money so that when the time comes you’ll be able to make your payments.

How should you proceed?

To receive eviction protection you must fill out a signed declaration confirming that you are eligible for coverage under the eviction moratorium. 

You will need to submit a copy of this declaration to your landlord. Each adult in your household will be responsible for submitting their own declaration. 

Even once you have submitted your declaration, it’s wise to continue pursuing rental assistance from other sources. The smaller the amount of back-rent you owe down the road, the better for everyone.   

How to talk to your landlord

Depending on your relationship with your landlord, you may wish to discuss the eviction moratorium with him in advance. 

It’s worth taking note that the eviction moratorium doesn’t provide any compensation for landlords who are housing residents under this order. Your landlord likely still has bills to pay on the property you live in, whether it be a mortgage, utilities, property taxes, or other expenses. 

While it’s not your responsibility to worry about your landlord’s needs, a conversation about this issue could be very helpful if you wish to maintain a good relationship with them.

Keep an open dialogue going with your landlord. Let him know that you’re struggling to make ends meet but that you’re doing what you can to make your rent payments.

Considering asking him what amount of money he would need from you each month to cover his basic expenses. If you can find a way to pay your landlord a small amount each month to help alleviate his financial stress, it could equate to a more comfortable landlord-tenant relationship for both of you.

Potential downsides to this program

While the eviction moratorium does offer protection if you are struggling to pay your rent, it’s important to understand that it does not protect you against eviction for other reasons.

If you break the terms of your lease in any other sense, you may still be evicted. Common lease violations include housing pets that are not permitted, committing property damage, selling drugs, or operating a business illegally. 

As mentioned above, your landlord isn’t receiving funding despite continuing to house you. Depending on your landlord’s financial situation, this may give him cause to look for other reasons to evict you. 

Knowing this, it’s important to ensure that you are abiding by all other terms of your lease when you apply for eviction protection. 

Final Thoughts

If you’re struggling to pay your rent due to the current pandemic, this eviction protection program may give you peace of mind.

However, because you will still ultimately be responsible for paying your past due rent, you should continue pursuing work and additional rental assistance while you are protected under the program. This program is best used as a last resort by individuals who are liable to face homelessness without it.