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CDC Eviction Moratorium Extended Through June

protest
Activists demanded an end to evictions at a rally outside the temporary home of the Virginia State Senate earlier this year. (Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

The Centers For Disease Control announced an extension of the temporary federal eviction moratorium, preventing the evictions of many tenants who can’t pay rent during the pandemic. 

The moratorium was scheduled to expire on March 31 and now ends on June 30. 

In a statement, the CDC said, “Keeping people in their homes and out of crowded or congregate settings — like homeless shelters — by preventing evictions is a key step in helping to stop the spread of COVID-19.”

The latest extension is nearly identical to the previous extension of the CDC moratorium. The order initially ran through December 31, was extended by an act of Congress through Jan. 31, and then the Biden administration moved it up to March 31. 

Renters having trouble paying have to apply and meet eligibility guidelines.

Tenants have to provide their landlords with a declaration under penalty of perjury showing that they tried to obtain government assistance for rent or housing, that they earn no more than $99,000 annually and that they’re unable to pay their rent or make housing payments during the pandemic due to loss of income among other requirements. Tenants can still get evicted for lease violations other than non-payment of rent. 

Palmer Heenan is an attorney with Central Virginia Legal Aid Society who represents people facing evictions. He said the moratorium still has some concerning gaps -- including the ability for landlords to circumvent the moratorium. 

“Essentially trying to find loopholes through which they can still engage in eviction, even when complying with the CDC eviction protections,” Heenan said.

While someone may be behind on their rent, Heenan said a landlord might still take them to court for some other alleged violation instead of waiting for the tenant to take advantage of local and state rental assistance programs.  

“That's exactly what the CDC eviction protection is meant to give time for, right? Not just to keep people housed at the cost or expense of landlords, but to keep people housed, while these rent relief programs that have been funded by both federal, state and local dollars, are able to make the landlord whole,” Heenan said. 

According to the CDC, federal, state and local eviction moratoria led to a million fewer evictions in 2020 than the previous year, although many renters still fell outside the scope of those protections.  There were about 131,000 eviction hearings in Virginia in 2020, down from about 186,000 in 2019.  

“Hundreds and thousands of these cases are happening across the commonwealth, even during times that we know for a fact there were various moratoria in place,” Heenan said.    

Last month, Virginia injected $160 million in federal coronavirus relief money into the state’s rent relief program which launched last spring. 

Patrick McCloud, CEO of the Virginia Apartment Management Association, said the program has been successful for tenants and landlords. 

“I think it has saved many people their homes. It’s also kept the economy moving by keeping rent going into multi-family, which has allowed tax rates to remain up and allowed local governments to receive funding,” McCloud said. 

Landlords, under state law, are required to apply for rent relief for their tenants who are behind. And tenants are required to cooperate with the landlord in that process. 

McCloud said the industry has one concern. 

“We are very worried that the CDC moratorium may create a disincentive for people to do what their requirements are under state law,” McCloud said. “If that happens then there is no protection against eviction.”