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Federal Government Places Moratorium on Some Residential Evictions

As readers of this Client Advisory are aware, the Executive Orders issued during the coronavirus emergency have placed restrictions on landlords’ ability to pursue legal proceedings that would result in a tenant’s eviction. The Executive Orders continue to evolve, as do the New York State court system’s rules and procedures designed to implement them. Landlords, including cooperative boards, and other affected parties should continue to consult with their counsel concerning the impact of these restrictions.

In addition to these State-level measures, on August 31, 2020, the White House announced that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have issued an order temporarily halting certain residential evictions for the next four months. The order prohibits a landlord or other property owner from evicting any “covered person” from any residential property before December 31, 2020. An individual must satisfy several conditions to obtain “covered person” status. Among other things, the individual must certify that he or she expects to earn less than $99,000 in income this year (or $198,000 for a couple filing a joint return), and that in the event of eviction, he or she is at risk of either becoming homeless or having to move into a congregate or shared living setting.

This federal order does not suspend the tenant’s underlying obligation to pay the rent, and the tenant is still supposed to make partial rent payments to the extent possible. The order does not affect the landlord’s own continuing obligations to meet its own expenses including mortgages and property taxes. The order does not affect commercial leases, and does not apply to the foreclosure of mortgages on either residential or commercial premises. The stated intent of this order is to reduce the spread of COVID-19 by avoiding or postponing evictions that would cause the tenant to become homeless or have to move into a shelter or similar environment in which people live at close quarters and are at greater risk of contracting the virus. Landlord groups have brought litigation challenging the validity of the order.