Can I Be Evicted If I Am Unable to Pay Rent Due To COVID-19?

The ongoing COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has made things difficult for many people in Texas and Ellis County. Mandatory closures have hit many Texans hard, and despite recovering from

The ongoing COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has made things difficult for many people in Texas and Ellis County. Mandatory closures have hit many Texans hard, and despite recovering from a peak of 13% in May 2020, the unemployment rate in Texas was reported at 6.9%  in April 2021.

So if you’re having trouble paying your rent because of COVID-19, you may be wondering if you can be evicted by your landlord. Or, if you are a landlord, you may be wondering if this CDC order is legitimate and if it protects a tenant who refuses to pay. Learn what you need to know in this blog from the Law Office of JD Foster now. 

A CDC Order Has Halted Evictions For Most Tenants Until June 30, 2021

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) issued a federal order protecting most people from being evicted if they are unable to pay rent due to COVID-19. 

Though the legitimacy of this order has been questioned, it’s still being widely used by tenants who are in financial jeopardy due to the effects of COVID-19. For this order to apply to a tenant, they must:

  • Be a residential tenant.
  • Be behind on rent. The CDC regulations only prevent evictions due to nonpayment of rent.
  • Have done their best to look for government housing assistance, benefits, and programs in your area.
  • Have made less than $99,000 in 2020 ($198,000 when filing jointly), did not report income to the IRS in 2019, or received an Economic Impact Payment based on Section 2201 of the CARES Act.
  • Have been subject to substantial loss of income, fewer work hours, or medical expenses that will be more than 7.5% of their adjusted gross income.
  • Be doing their best to pay their rent in full or in part, when possible, with exceptions for non discretionary expenses like child support and medicine.
  • Show that they will become homeless or will be forced to live in a shelter or another crowded space if they are evicted.

If the CDC order applies to a tenant, they will need to download a declaration from the CDC, as well as a form letter. They will need to sign both and provide them to their landlord. 

However, landlords still may be able to evict tenants if the tenant cannot adequately prove the impact of COVID-19 on their situation based on the above guidelines. This eviction moratorium also does not prevent evictions based on other issues, such as breaking lease agreements or illegal activity at the property. 

Still, doing so can be difficult. Landlords may have to hire an attorney to pursue a case that may have been straightforward before COVID-19, and frustration is increasing among landlords who have multiple tenants who are not paying their rent due to the moratorium.

A Major Case Challenging The CDC Moratorium Took Place In Texas 

One of the first cases challenging the CDC eviction moratorium was Terkel et al vs. Centers for Disease Control et al, which took place in a Texas court. The judge in the case, U.S. District Judge J. Campbell Barker, sided with a group of Texas landlords against the CDC in early February of 2021.

Essentially, Judge Barker determined that the CDC was acting outside of its authority when issuing its eviction moratorium. The argument Judge Barker presented is that since property does not “move across state lines,” it should not be subject to federal law – meaning the CDC’s eviction moratorium is unconstitutional.

However, Judge Barker declined to issue an injunction, saying that he expected the CDC to respect his judgment. The CDC did not accept this ruling, and almost immediately filed an appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, so litigation in this case is still ongoing.

Another Recent Court Case In DC Has Challenged The CDC Moratorium

It’s possible that, in the near future, the CDC moratorium on evictions may end completely. In a case heard by Federal District Judge Dabney Friedrich in the D.C. Judicial Circuit, the CDC moratorium was overturned. Judge Friedrich found that the CDC did not have the legal authority to impose the moratorium.

And, in this case, she vacated the eviction ban nationwide – effectively cancelling it completely. However, this does not mean the eviction moratorium has ended. The U.S. Department of Justice immediately filed an appeal after her ruling, so the judge issued a stay on her ruling.

This means the order will not be vacated until it’s reviewed by the higher court, and the ruling is either confirmed or reversed. For now, it remains in place, despite this challenge to the legitimacy of the CDC’s authority. 

What Happens After The Eviction Moratorium Ends Or Is Vacated?

Due to the ongoing appeal case mentioned above, it’s not clear if the CDC moratorium will expire on June 30, 2021, or if it may be completely vacated and canceled. 

Whenever it does end, though, what will happen is simple to understand. Landlords will be able to seek the full amount of unpaid rent from tenants after June 30, 2021, and will be allowed to continue with eviction proceedings against tenants who have not paid their rent, in accordance with state and local law.

However, if the eviction moratorium is upheld during the appeal process, it is possible that it will be extended again. This already happened in March, as the CDC’s eviction moratorium was set to expire on March 31, 2021, and then was extended to June 30.

Got Questions? Get Help From An Ellis County Landlord Tenant Attorney 

Whether you’re a tenant who is having difficulties paying rent or you’re a landlord trying to understand the next steps to take after the eviction moratorium happens, the Law Office of JD Foster can help. 

JD Foster is an experienced Ellis County landlord tenant attorney, and can work with you to get the best possible outcome for your case. Contact us now for a case review, and get the answers you need during this difficult time.

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