White House order to halt evictions through December starts Friday

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE)– Starting Friday, landlords will not be able to evict tenants if they are unable to pay rent, under certain circumstances.

According to an order from the White House, issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “a landlord, owner of a residential property, or other person with a legal right to pursue
eviction or possessory action, shall not evict any covered person from any residential property in any jurisdiction to which this Order applies during the effective period of the Order.”

A renter in Knoxville, Weston Taylor, said the temporary four-month halt is exactly the kind of help some people need months into the pandemic.

“People are still apprehensive about coming out. People in the restaurants, the bars, the brewery industries, a lot of those people, including myself, depend on you know tips for a good chunk of their income,” Taylor said.

He said if someone is already struggling to pay rent, they’ll have an even harder time finding a new place to live.

“That’s a whole new set of deposits, that’s a whole new set of just everything, I mean finding a place alone can be a nightmare,” Taylor said.

The order doesn’t allow any renter to forgo paying rent simply because they say they can’t pay it.

According to the order, tenants must fill out a declaration form to their landlords saying that they are unable to pay rent due to all of the following conditions:

  • The individual has used best efforts to obtain all available government assistance for rent or housing;
  • The individual either expects to earn no more than $99k in annual income for Calendar Year 2020 (or no more than $198,000 if filing a joint tax return), (ii) was not required to report any income in 2019 to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, or (iii) received a stimulus check;
  • 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 lay-off, or extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses;
  • 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 non-discretionary expenses; and
  • 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.

Heather Anderson, a lawyer at Bernstein, Stair & McAdams LLP, said the order has a few issues and gaps in requirements that could ultimately negatively impact the landlords and tenants.

Firstly, the order doesn’t require tenants to show proof or documentation of the criteria they are supposed to meet, Anderson said.

She said another issue not all landlords can afford non-payment of rent, which could also impact the renter.

“They’ll lose the house in foreclosure. Then the bank can evict the tenant because this new order doesn’t apply to evictions from a foreclosure,” Anderson said.

She said the order also impacts current cases of evictions.

Anderson said there is a chance that current eviction cases are also halted until after Dec. 31, even if landlords already payed the court fees.

She said tenants should also know that landlords can still evict under the order if the tenant violates any other part of their contract or leasing agreement.

Anderson said the best scenario for all parties involved is to talk with each other and possibly compromise.

“Hopefully, the landlord will be able to accommodate them with a slight reduction in rent perhaps or even a month or a month and a half of pro-rated rent,” Anderson said.

Anderson wanted to remind landlords that if they don’t follow the order, they could face severe penalties.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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