The COVID-19 pandemic has made these strange and unpredictable times, leading to significant financial consequences both in the short-term and the long-term. Virtually every industry has faced hardships this year, and real estate industry professionals have been bracing for a COVID-induced housing crisis for months,[i] which had the potential to drive a wave of evictions that would on exacerbate the effects of the virus.[ii]
To address these fears, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently enacted a moratorium on evictions, effectively preventing the eviction of millions of renters who have suffered financially. Yet, this is far from the first attempt by government officials to deal with the problem. Since back in March, we have seen several stimulus bills and rental assistance programs emerge. So, in order to fully understand the CDC’s eviction moratorium, let’s first look at how we got to this point.
[ii] Badger, E. (2020, September 03).
The Federal Response
There have been several attempts by the federal government to mitigate the effects of the pandemic throughout the year, starting with the passing of the CARES Act on March 27th.[i] The CARES Act led to the creation of a $2.2 trillion stimulus bill, greatly expanded unemployment benefits, and a federal eviction moratorium for most residents of federally subsidized apartments. However, this expired on July 24th, leading to concerns about how the government would follow it up.[ii]
The U.S. House of Representatives also passed its own stimulus bill in May, which included $100 billion in financial assistance to be funneled through the existing Department of Housing and Urban Development grant program.[iii] Unfortunately, this bill was not passed by the Senate, and other attempts at developing a new relief package since then have seen little progress due to disagreements over the amount of aid to offer and how it should be distributed. Congress has not adopted any new aid package that includes broad rent relief, and additional benefits created by an executive action have not yet reached many workers.[iv]
Due to this inability to come to an agreement, we have seen a surge of eviction filings since the CARES Act expired in July, with many tenants having few options regarding where to go.[v] Landlords and property managers have also faced difficulties, as they reportedly took in 29% less in rent this August than they did back in March.[vi] Ultimately, it has been a lose-lose situation for everyone involved.
[ii] Lightfoot, X. D., & Wells, H. R. (2020, September 3). CDC Enacts New Residential Eviction Moratorium. Retrieved from https://www.natlawreview.com/article/cdc-enacts-new-residential-eviction-moratorium
[iii] Badger, E. (2020, September 03).
[iv] Badger, E. (2020, September 03).
[v] Badger, E. (2020, September 03).
[vi] Rentec Direct Releases New Data Revealing the Impact of COVID-19 on Rent Payments. (2020, September 15). Retrieved from https://www.prweb.com/releases/rentec_direct_releases_new_data_revealing_the_impact_of_covid_19_on_rent_payments/prweb17394504.htm
The Local Response
Along with federal government’s attempts to lessen the burden on both renters and real estate managers, local governments have also done their part with various rental assistance programs. For instance, Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb extended the eviction moratorium he had originally imposed back in March so that it would last through July, later revising it until mid-August.[i] The order expired on August 14th, and as of this writing there has been no indicator that he will be extending it further.[ii]
This wasn’t Gov. Holcomb’s only plan to help renters though. Back in June, he announced that he would make use of $25 million from the federal COVID-19 relief funds taken from the CARES Act, with the intention to help 12,000 Hoosiers meet rent payments. The goal was to provide up to $500 per month for 4 months to households that were unable to pay all or part of their rent due to a pandemic-induced job loss or income reduction.
To qualify, households needed to have a current income that was less than that what it was back in March 6th of this year. They could not have received any previous rental assistance from the CARES Act or any other sources either. Also, landlords needed agree to participate in the program so that tenants qualify. This meant that they were not allowed to evict for nonpayment until the renter was more than 45 days past due.[iii] Despite these restrictions, demand for financial assistance has been strong, with more than 30,000 Indiana residents having applied for state assistance, nearly triple the amount that Gov. Holcomb and other state officials originally expected.[iv]
[i] State extends eviction moratorium for Indiana residents. (2020, June 27). Retrieved from http://www.therepublic.com/2020/06/28/state_extends_eviction_moratorium_for_indiana_residents/
[ii] O’Connell, A. (2020, September 14). Emergency Bans on Evictions and Other Tenant Protections Related to Coronavirus. Retrieved from https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/emergency-bans-on-evictions-and-other-tenant-protections-related-to-coronavirus.html
[iii] State extends eviction moratorium for Indiana residents. (2020, June 27).
[iv] Russell, J. (2020, August 20). More than 30,000 Hoosiers apply for state rental assistance. Retrieved from https://www.theindianalawyer.com/articles/more-than-30000-hoosiers-apply-for-state-rental-assistance
The CDC’s Eviction Moratorium
Although there have been several attempts on both the federal and state level to help prevent mass evictions, few would have been able to anticipate that the CDC would enact such an unprecedented executive act as its eviction moratorium. In our next blog, we’ll look at the new at it in-depth, answering what it says and how property managers are responding.