Frequently Asked Questions on CDC Order Halting Evictions

*A suggested declaration containing the required language is available for download here.

The federal  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an order halting certain residential evictions due to the Covid-19 public health crisis until December 31, 2020. The order is here.

If you need legal advice on how this order may apply to you, contact:

  • For Orleans, Jefferson, St. Bernard, St. Charles, and Plaquemines: Southeast Louisiana Legal Services’ Housing Line at (504) 529-1000 ext. 223.
  • For other parishes throughout Southeast Louisiana (including and east of Baton Rouge): COVID-19 helpline at 1-844-244-7871

When does the order become effective?

The order took effect on Friday, September 4, 2020.

What properties are covered?

The CDC order applies to all residential rental properties. But as set out below only certain people are protected.

This is different from the earlier CARES Act eviction moratorium, which was based on whether the property had a federally backed mortgage or federal subsidy. The CDC order does not apply to commercial rental properties (for example, businesses). The CDC order also does not apply to evictions from hotels and motels.

What tenants are covered?

A person is a “covered person” under the order if they give their landlord a declaration under penalty of perjury that:

  1. The individual has used best efforts to obtain all available government assistance for rent or housing;
  2. The individual either
    • expects to earn no more than $99,000 in annual income for Calendar Year 2020 (or no more than $198,000 if filing a joint return),
    • was not required to report any income in 2019 to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, or
    • received a stimulus check under the CARES Act;
  1. The individual is unable to pay the full rent or make a full housing payment due to substantial loss of household income, loss of compensable hours of work or wages, a layoff, or extraordinary  out-of-pocket medical expenses;
  2. The individual is using best efforts to make timely partial payments that are as close to the full payment as the individual’s circumstances may permit, taking into account other necessary expenses; and
  3. Eviction would likely render the individual homeless—or force the individual to move into and live in close quarters in a new congregate or shared living setting— because the individual has no other available housing options.”

A suggested declaration containing the required language is available for download here. Every adult member of the household must fill out a declaration.

*Remember that it is a criminal offense to lie on a declaration under penalty of perjury!

Does the declaration have to be notarized?

No. It is sworn, so if you sign it but it does not apply to you, you can be prosecuted for perjury because of the language on the form.

What evictions are covered?

Evictions for non-payment of rent are covered. You can still be evicted for:

  1. Engaging in criminal activity on the property;
  2. Threatening the health or safety of other residents;
  3. Damaging or posing an immediate and significant risk of damage to property;
  4. Violating any building code, health ordinance, or similar regulation relating to health and safety; or
  5. Violating any other lease requirement other than payment of rent.

Can I still be evicted because my lease is expired?

The order does not say whether you can be evicted because your lease is expired and the owner wants possession. But if people could be evicted because they are month-to-month, the purpose of the order would be totally undermined. A judge will have to decide this issue unless the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) clarifies it.

You would still have to meet the other requirements on the declaration.

If you are evicted for lease non-renewal it might be important to have an attorney familiar with the CDC order represent you in court. (Call the number above to see if SLLS can provide you with free legal help).

When should I give my declaration to my landlord?

You should provide the form to your landlord as soon as possible. The order does not provide a deadline, as long as it is before you are physically evicted.

How should I give my declaration to my landlord?

You should keep some form of proof for any court that you gave the declaration to your landlord. For example you can:

  • Text a picture of the signed declaration to your landlord, then screenshot the text message.
  • Email a picture of the signed declaration to your landlord, and print the email before going to court
  • Send the signed declaration to your landlord by certified mail and keep a copy of the mail tracking.
  • Make a copy of the declaration and have your landlord sign it to indicate receipt when you turn in the original.

Can I give something to my landlord to explain the importance of the form?

Here are some helpful documents explaining the CDC eviction moratorium that you can use:

What evidence do I need to back up the declaration?

The order only requires that you provide the declaration to your landlord. However, you should expect that judges may ask you questions about the declaration, so you should be prepared bring the following to court if the landlord files or has filed for an eviction:

  • Talk about, and even better, show your monthly budget with expenses you cannot avoid like utility bills, medical expenses, childcare, and food.
  • Explain, and even better, show how you used your stimulus payment if you did not use it to pay rent.
  • Talk about, and even better, show evidence of trying to make partial payments if your budget allows. For example you can bring screenshots of text messages, other evidence that you tried to work out a payment plan or make payments, or money orders for partial rent.
  • Talk about, and even better, show evidence that you have attempted to obtain rental assistance, for example a list of places you called and when you called them, or paperwork from an agency where you applied for assistance.
  • Show that your income is below $99,000, for example a document showing that you receive SSI, food stamps, the letter showing you got a Stimulus payment, a pay stub, or a printout showing the amount of your unemployment benefits.
  • Explain why you have nowhere to go if you get evicted, besides doubling up with family or friends, or going to a shelter.

What if my landlord already got an eviction judgment but I am still in my apartment because the constable has not come out yet?

If the eviction was for nonpayment of rent you are protected, ONLY IF you quickly take the step to become a “covered person” by giving the declaration to your landlord. So be sure to provide it right away. Then you must call the court and the constable to provide proof that you gave the declaration in order for them to stop the eviction. If this is your situation you should consider contacting an attorney right away. You may qualify for free legal aid from Southeast Louisiana Legal Services at (504) 529-1000 x.223.

Here is the CDC suggested declaration form.

If you provide the declaration, you would be protected because the order says that ‘Eviction’’ means “any action by a landlord, owner of a residential property, or other person with a legal right to pursue eviction or a possessory action, to remove or cause the removal of a covered person from a residential property.” After your landlord gets an eviction judgment, if you do not vacate the landlord has to go back to the court to file a “warrant for possession” or “writ of ejection” for the constable to come out and remove you. The order would bar the landlord from getting the warrant and putting you out, as long as you are a “covered person.”

Can my landlord give me a notice to vacate?
Landlords are prohibited from taking "any action" to remove a covered person from their home, unless it is for a reason allowed by the order (for example criminal activity or violation of the lease other than nonpayment). Therefore landlords are prohibited from giving notices to vacate for reasons that are not permitted under the order, including nonpayment of rent.

Is my rent still due?

Yes, your rent is still due, and your landlord can charge you late fees if you do not pay. Your landlord can sue you to collect a rent debt, or can report it to collections which could affect your credit or ability to get future housing.

Remember, to be a “covered person” you must be able to declare under penalty of perjury that you will attempt to make payments as close to the full amount of your rent as possible given your financial circumstances. Consider repeatedly getting money orders for the amount of rent that you can afford. For example, when you get your unemployment, paycheck, or social security check, think about how much you can put toward rent, even if it is a very small amount. Offer the money orders to your landlord and be sure to get a receipt if they are accepted. If you have the ability to text or email a picture of the money orders to your landlord, do so. If your landlord will not accept partial payment, keep the money orders somewhere safe so you can show a judge that you tried to make payments and that you still have that money available to give your landlord.

What Happens when the Order Expires on December 31, 2020?

If you still have unpaid rent on January 1, 2021, your landlord will be able to evict you for nonpayment of rent. Your landlord can also sue you to collect a rent debt, or can report it to collections which could affect your credit or ability to get future housing.

What if I give my landlord the declaration, but my landlord still files for eviction?

You can apply for free legal services from Southeast Louisiana Legal Services at the numbers below. See “What evidence do I need to back up the declaration?” above to start compiling documentation that you might need in court to show that your landlord cannot evict you.

  • For Orleans, Jefferson, St. Bernard, St. Charles, and Plaquemines: Southeast Louisiana Legal Services’ Housing Line at (504) 529-1000 ext. 223.
  • For other parishes throughout Southeast Louisiana (including and east of Baton Rouge):

        COVID-19 helpline at 1-844-244-7871

Additional resources

 

Eviction notice on door

"Jennifer" came to us scared that she was going to lose her home after her landlord served her an eviction notice. Without enough money to move, pay for storage, or get a new apartment, she feared that she was about to lose everything she owned and become homeless.

We discovered that Jennifer's landlord had been charging her illegal monthly fees on top of her rent. So far, Jennifer had paid her landlord 52 times more than her monthly rent in these fees! When she could no longer afford to pay them, her landlord threatened to put her on the street.

Our attorneys defeated the eviction and got Jennifer a refund for all the money she had given her landlord to pay these fees. But we didn't stop there. The landlord owns over 500 rental units. So, we negotiated with the landlord and with the Housing Authority of New Orleans to end the unlawful practice that almost cost Jennifer her home - ensuring the hundreds of low-income families who live in these units will no longer be charged these illegal fees.

Our supporters helped protect both current and future low-income tenants from over $32,000 in fees per month that their landlord was charging them illegally. We hope you will join our supporters in the fight for fairness today by making a donation at https://slls.org/donations/.

SLLS Protects Homes and Savings for Low-Income People

When Estelle* walked into our office, she was distraught.  At  66 years old, after working hard her entire life, she suddenly faced the possibility of losing her home and  her savings. Her health was deteriorating and since she received only $800 a month in retirement, she didn’t have enough money to get another apartment. She was scared she would end up sleeping on the streets. Most frustrating, Estelle knew she had done nothing wrong.

Estelle had worked for her previous employer for over 10 years. She did odd jobs on her boss’ properties and helped get them in shape for inspections. Her employer always paid her in cash and sometimes withheld some of her earnings to help her save for big expenses. This relationship worked well for both of them. About five years ago, her employer offered a new arrangement – the opportunity to lease-to-own one of his properties.  She was excited about the possibility of owning her own home and the stability it would provide. She looked forward to aging in place there.  Her boss said she could use $10,000 of the money he had “saved” for  her to put towards the down payment. Then the plan was for her boss to withhold  part of her pay to cover the monthly rent. Estelle was thrilled. She signed a 30-year lease with option to purchase her new home.

The arrangement was great for the first couple of years. Then Estelle’s bosses who co-owned the business employing Estelle started fighting with each other. There was disagreement on who owned the business and how to dissolve the business assets. Estelle wound up being fired and then served with an eviction notice accusing her of not paying the rent. On top of that, they denied they owed her any money for her past work. That’s when Estelle called SLLS.

Attorneys from SLLS’s Employment and Housing Units teamed up to help Estelle. Getting justice for Estelle took months and several court appearances. More than once, Estelle thought about giving up. She found the legal process confusing and frustrating. The stress of the situation was taking a toll on her health. Without SLLS, Estelle could not have afforded to have an attorney. With SLLS by her side, she continued to fight for what she knew  was right.  In the end, the court dismissed the eviction and Estelle got to keep her home. The court also found ordered the employers to pay  Estelle  $23,000 in unpaid wages. Now Estelle’s doesn’t have to worry about losing her home and her future is secure.

 

*Our client's name has been changed to protect her identity.

 

Right around Christmas in 2016, Michael—a 68-year-old Vietnam War veteran who suffers from PTSD—received a notice that the lease for his affordable apartment in New Orleans was being terminated. He had lived there for seven years and paid his rent on time, with the help of a housing voucher for $789 a month. Being a model tenant, he couldn’t understand why his lease wasn’t being renewed.