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Trump administration bans most evictions through December, but there’s a catch

Though a moratorium is in effect, tenants are still obligated to pay rent

Citing concern about the spread of the coronavirus, the Trump administration on Tuesday announced a moratorium on most residential evictions through the end of the year.

The order, made public by the Centers for Disease Control on Tuesday, will prevent landlords from evicting most tenants across the United States effective Sept. 4.

To apply for the new moratorium, tenants must file a form with their landlord stating that they cannot pay rent, have lost substantial household income due to the pandemic, and will make their best effort to pay partial rent. Tenants also have to stipulate that eviction could push them into homelessness or to live with others in close quarters.

Tenants who make less than $99,000 per year or have received a federal coronavirus aid check earlier this year are eligible.

The order lays out criminal penalties for violating the mandate, but does not relieve tenants of their obligation to pay their rent.

“Nothing in this Order precludes the charging or collecting of fees, penalties, or interest as a result of the failure to pay rent or other housing payment on a timely basis, under the terms of any applicable contract,” the order states.

Diane Yentel, the president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, said in a statement that the CDC’s order will help millions of anxious families, but added that it merely delays evictions and does not prevent them.

She called it a “half measure that extends a financial cliff for renters to fall off of when the moratorium expires and back rent is owed.”

The National Multifamily Housing Council, the nation’s largest landlord lobby, expressed opposition to the order. “Not only does an eviction moratorium not address renters’ real financial needs, a protracted eviction moratorium does nothing to address the financial pressures and obligations of rental property owners,” Doug Bibby, the group’s president, told the New York Times.

Data provider RealPage said that it expects rent collections for September to continue to fall, due largely to the fact that states are paying only up to $400 more a week for unemployment benefits after the original $600 incremental unemployment payment from the CARES Act expired in July.

When August rent payments came due, only 79.3% of apartment households had made a full or partial rent payment by August 6. This is down 1.9 percentage points from August 2019.

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