The ongoing and somewhat unpredictable changes in the national eviction moratorium during the past year has created a confusing – if not economically painful – experience for apartment operators and their residents.
Greg Brown, Senior Vice President, Government Affairs, at the National Apartment Association, addressed the current situation, what might be coming soon, and also how we got here in the first place during the webinar “The Eviction Moratorium: Where Things Stand and How to Have an Impact,” presented by ResMan.
He helps us to understand some of the partisan, bi-partisan and legal implications, as well as the advocacy efforts that NAA has helped our industry take in response to a situation that, according to estimates by the Urban Institute, has 10.25 million renters falling behind on $57.3 billion in rent by January 2021. The average amount of past-due rent per person is $6,000.
CDC Evictions Order Invalidated
On Sept. 4, the Centers of Disease Control (CDC) issued a new order about five weeks after the CARES Act’s national eviction moratorium expired. The difference is that the CARES Act moratorium applied to federally backed properties only and the CDC order applies to all residents of rental properties who make less than $99,000 per year for individuals and $198,000 per couple.
On May 5, a federal judge invalidated that moratorium, ruling that the CDC exceeded its authority on Sept. 4 with its ban of resident evictions. The CDC argued that its rule was to safeguard the country against the pandemic.
Hours later, the same judge placed her decision on hold to allow time for the appeals process to take place, putting the industry, and the country, back where it was in March of 2020 when the temporary hold on evictions was included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
With each eviction moratorium decision, as many as five federal agencies have been involved in fine-tuning and clarifying of its positions. The current appeals could go as far as the U.S. Supreme Court, Brown says.
One important aspect is that every court ruling to this point only applied to their individual plaintiffs, and did not have nationwide implications, as some have inferred.
“As for the District court ruling from Alabama, that judge actually vacated the CDC order nationwide,” Brown says. “however, as it is stayed, we’re basically stuck right where it was when the CDC put it in.” Property management professionals are urged to speak to their legal counsel to get a greater understanding of the CDC eviction order and how they appropriately comply.
Mounting Counter-Opinion Could Have Clout
NAA was the first national association to file a lawsuit challenging the CDC’s order, others included National Association of Home Builders and National Association of Realtors. Once it was put into effect, NAA met with its contacts in the White House and they were receptive.
“Supportive rulings in the multifamily industry’s favor are building; however, a final resolution will take time,” Brown says.
To hear more about the possible outcomes and Brown’s thoughts on how long the moratorium will last, watch the on-demand webinar.
NAA Advocates, Educates about Eviction Costs
Brown says that since the CDC order is an Administrative action, Congress does not have direct impact on its extension. However, industry members can make a difference by speaking with their members of Congress and delivering real-life, on-the-ground stories about how these rulings have affected their businesses and their residents. The intent is for Congress to take those stories to the Administration and advocate for letting the CDC order expire on June 30.
NAA has an active grassroots campaign for industry professionals so that they can share their stories with Congress in a unified way.
“The templates include fill-in-the-blanks so that our members can provide details and other specifics about what’s happening to them, and those emails can be targeted directly to their members of Congress,” he says.
In addition to the grassroots campaigns to encourage member outreach, NAA has created a Key Contact Program, where it has reach out to ask members if they have any personal relationships with members of Congress, so they potentially could help to open doors to direct lines of communication to the Senate and House of Representatives.
ERAP Brings $50 Billion in Aid to Renters
The federal government also has created an Emergency Renter Assistance Program, which includes $50 billion in support funds that have been distributed to the states. ResMan wrote about this program in its blog, and this entry includes links to each state’s application.
Each state’s administration of the program differs, and states are having various degrees of success with this rollout. Brown says that Virginia and Colorado are states with strong rollouts so far. Texas has improved dramatically, and Pennsylvania has done reasonably well. The jury is out on other state programs.