July 31st, 2020 marked the expiration of the CARES Act, which brought an abrupt and unwelcome end to the much needed enhanced unemployment benefits for 25 million Americans. The Act also provided a federal moratorium for evictions of certain covered dwellings for those that were unable to pay their rent.
Under the Act, landlords were prohibited from charging late fees and filing for evictions for unpaid rent. The Act also required a 30-day notice for all eviction proceedings. The Act’s federal evictions moratorium ran concurrently with many state eviction moratoriums. However, as state moratoriums expired, tenants covered by the federal moratorium in the Act remained protected.
Beginning July 27, 2020, landlords of these dwellings may evict their tenants unless the moratorium is extended. Now, with these rules lifted landlords can begin to serve notices of evictions to these tenants, and start evictions proceedings on August 24, 2020. So, landlords may now file detainer warrants for unpaid rent and apply late fees to tenants that failed to pay rent during the moratorium.
On August 8, 2020, the Executive Order on Fighting the Spread of COVID-19 by Providing Assistance to Renters and Homeowners (“EO”) was signed by President Trump as a means to address the lapsed federal moratorium. Unfortunately, the EO does not provide any legitimate coverage to the millions of Americans at risk for eviction, because the EO states that the government actions will:
- Have the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Director of the CDC “consider whether any measures temporarily halting residential evictions of any tenants for failure to pay rent are reasonably necessary to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 . . .”
- “Identify any and all available Federal funds to provide temporary financial assistance to renters are homeowners who, as a result of the financial hardships caused by COVID-19, are struggling to meet their monthly rental and mortgage obligations.”
- Have the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) “. . . take action to promote the ability of renters and homeowners to avoid eviction or foreclosure resulting from financial hardships caused by COVID-19”; and
- The Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency “shall review all existing authorities and resources that may be sued to prevent evictions and foreclosures for renters and homeowners resulting from hardships caused by COVID-19.”
In short, because the EO does not explicitly offer extended eviction protections these tenants remain at risk for eviction until there is further action taken by either Congress or the Executive Branch..
On May 15, 2020, in anticipation of the CARES Act expiration, the House of Representatives passed the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act, otherwise known as the HEROES Act. This would extend unemployment benefits at the additional $600 per week through January or March of 2021, depending on your type of employment. HEROES will, in part, address and extend the eviction moratorium an additional 12 months. The HEROES Act has not been passed by the Senate, and remains an option for relief.
Additionally up for passage is the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools Act, more commonly referred to as the HEALS Act. The HEALS Act would extend the federal benefits until December 31st, 2020. This would include a $200.00 per week increase in unemployment payments. HEALS remains silent on the matter of eviction. As of publication the HEALS Act has not been passed by either branch of Congress, and thus remains another option for relief.
Both Acts will provide additional economic relief though a stimulus which will be distributed in the same manner as before. While the additional check will be very helpful to most, it does not create a long-term solution for the financial loss impacted Americans have suffered over the last several months. Further, there is no concrete date for the distribution of these funds, should either Act be signed by the President.
For those suffering from the economic impacts of the loss of the CARES Act protections we are here to discuss other options from the legal perspective. Lodestone offers all manner of services, including eviction assistance, debt negotiation, and bankruptcy. We encourage you to call if you are facing any financial difficulties related to COVID-19, we’d love the opportunity to assist you in any way possible.
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