CLARK BARS UPDATE - DECEMBER 22ND 2020
Law Offices of Scott M. Clark, PC
Date: December 22, 2020
COVID-19 - EVICTION PROTOCOL UPDATE
By: Christopher R. Walker, Esq.
On December 21, 2020, Congress passes H.R. 133 known as the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021. It is anticipated that President Trump will sign the bill into law later this week. Included in the bill are two important updates for property owners.
The first includes $25 billion in rental assistance funds that are to be distributed out to the states based on each state’s population with each state receiving, at a minimum, $200 million in rental assistance. Renters are to apply through existing state/municipal programs and payments are to be directed to the property owner or the owner’s designee.
The program has income limitations and prioritizes low-income households. A household must be at or below 80% of the area median income to be eligible for assistance. The program will pay up to 9 months of rental arrearage and 3 months forward in rent. Renters will apply through the municipal/state programs currently established, and payments will be sent directly to the property owner/manager. Residents may receive payment directly from the administrative agency and pay their provider if that provider does not want to participate in the program. Important to landlords is the ability for the landlord to directly apply for the rental assistance funds, provided the tenant applies, jointly, with the landlord. We look forward to learning how local rental assistance agencies will process these “joint” requests and hope there will be a quicker processing time with the landlord now being involved in the application.
Second, Congress has sought to affirm the CDC’s September 4, 2020 order and has extended it through January 31, 2021. After landlord’s receipt of the tenant’s Attestation, our Firm takes the following position:
1. Landlords may continue to issue non-payment of rent notices or enter into promise-to-pay agreements;
2. Landlords can continue to charge late fees and/or insufficient funds fees where authorized by the terms of the contract;
3. Landlord’s may, at their discretion, file an eviction for non-payment of rent where a tenant has provided a CDC declaration. Please note, the court will either grant the judgment and delay the writ until after January 31, 2021 or will continue the case until after January 31, 2021.
4. Landlords cannot file a Writ of Restitution awarded in a judgment for non-payment of rent and must cancel the unexecuted Writ of Restitution if the tenant provides a CDC declaration.
5. Landlord’s have the right to challenge any CDC order presented if they believe the tenant is not eligible for the relief based on the criteria set forth in the CDC order. Unless the court grants the challenge, the writ will be delayed until after January 31, 2021.
In order to best ensure compliance with the CDC Order, we recommend landlords diligently document and maintain all written communications from the tenant that is remotely related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Should the landlord or its agent remain uncertain whether the documentation provided meets the CDC requirements for the Attestation, you are strongly encouraged to contact our office for assistance.
Moving forward, our Firm will continue to file non-payment evictions only if the landlord or its agent provides confirmation that, at the time of the submission of the file, the tenant has or has not provided the landlord with a CDC declaration as we are required to allege the presence of a declaration in the complaint filed with the Court. Clients are also required to keep the Firm notified during the pending action of any change in circumstances and if the tenant later provides the CDC declaration at any point during the eviction process.
Anyone with questions about these new requirements should seek legal advice.
Law Offices of Scott M Clark, PC
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