Eviction and COVID-19 have affected many of the practices and assistance programs. While every tenant needs to follow good general practices of working with a landlord if you can’t pay your rent, Federal, state and local governments have also enacted a continuing flow of COVID-19 emergency tenant protections. Most of these practices merely delay evictions for struggling tenants. But some local ordinances completely ban evictions (in certain circumstances), and many require landlords to offer payment plans. None of these protections relieve the obligation to pay rent-they just temporarily (in most cases) prevent your landlord from evicting you.
Starting at the Federal level, check what (if any) protections apply to you and work your way down the list. Generally, the “closer to home” you get (e.g., county or city level), the stronger protections you’ll find.
Federal Level: Mortgage-based Protections
Under the Federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, all landlords with federally backed (Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac or HUD) mortgages or who participate in federally assisted rental housing programs (roughly 50% of all rental properties), were prevented from evicting or collecting fees/penalties from tenants based on non-payment of rent. These “blanket” restrictions expired on 7/24/20. However, as of 8/6/20 multifamily landlords with Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac backed loans who enter new or modified financial hardship forbearance agreements cannot evict tenants or charge late fees for non-payment of rent for the duration of those forbearance agreements and in certain cases even beyond. Those landlords must also inform tenants of these restrictions and offer flexible payment plans.
The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) instituted a similar eviction moratorium which included single family homes financed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. The moratorium on single family homes expires on 8/31/20.
Congress is currently negotiating the next round of Federal Coronavirus relief legislation – which may extend the moratoriums – but for now landlords can begin serving 30-day notices for tenants to vacate. And unless Congress takes conflicting action, starting 8/24/20 landlords can begin filing evictions.
If you live in a property with four or less units, contact your landlord regarding the type of financing on the property. If you live in a property with five or more units, use the Multifamily Loan Lookup Tools on the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac web pages to search your unit’s address. You should check both websites.
Even under these mortgage-based protections, tenants are still ultimately responsible for paying full rent. You may find more relief at the state or local level.
California Governor: Emergency Protections Via Executive Orders
On 3/4/20 Governor Gavin Newsom declared a California-wide state of emergency (N-44-20) that (among other price controls) automatically caps rent increases. Via two additional orders, Newsom also first allowed cities and counties to enact their own tenant protections (3/16/20 Executive Order N-28-20) and then to extend those protections through 9/30/20 if they choose to do so. (6/30/20 Executive Order N-71-20). These local protections are discussed hereunder.