by Kate Shunney
A previous order from the federal government that stopped evictions of people from rental properties due to overdue rent during the COVID pandemic has been extended through March 31.
Originally, that halt to evictions was set to run out on January 31.
The order means a landlord or property owner can’t legally kick a renter or occupant out of their property for non-payment of rent. Landlords still have the right to pursue an eviction action, or file a wrongful occupation action in court, but court officials have been asked not to make a ruling ordering eviction.
Morgan County Magistrate Court officials have seen a drop in the number of wrongful occupation petitions in recent months.
Magistrates can still hold a hearing on landlord/tenant disputes, but can only order someone to be evicted if the property is being actively destroyed, said court officials.
In a statement about the extending the halt to evictions, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said curbing the spread of COVID is a major factor in keeping tenants in place for now.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has presented a historic threat to our nation’s health. It has also triggered a housing affordability crisis that disproportionately affects some communities.
“Despite extensive mitigation efforts, COVID-19 continues to spread in America at a concerning pace. We must act to get cases down and keep people in their homes and out of congregate settings — like shelters — where COVID-19 can take an even stronger foothold,” Dr. Walensky said.
The extension was announced on January 20.
Former president Donald Trump in December signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, which extended the CDC halt in residential evictions from September 4, 2020 to January 31, 2021.
Under the federal rule, evictions do not include foreclosure on a home mortgage.
Tenants or residents who are protected by this federal order must earn no more than $99,000 in annual income.
Tenants of residential rental property are asked, if they have overdue rent, to provide a declaration to their landlord that they have made efforts to get government assistance to pay overdue rent, and/or worked with the landlord to develop a payment plan to cover rent if the renter’s normal income has been severely impacted by COVID, through layoffs, reduced hours, unpaid time off or high medical expenditures.
The order also protects those whose eviction would force them to move into and live in shared, close-quarter residences due to a lack of other housing options.
More information about the order can be found at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/covid-eviction-declaration.html.
Eviction Declaration forms can be found on that page in both English and Spanish.