Entertain us, if you will, as we serve as Jacob Marley to landlords in visiting the ghosts of eviction moratoriums, past, present and future.
After months of experience with the eviction moratorium imposed by the Centers for Disease Control, we now know that most residential evictions — even those for non-payment of rent — can proceed per normal procedures, at least until new regulations are issued and the moratorium never applied to eviction for issues other than non-payment (e.g., criminal activity and damaging the premises,)
As reported here, the Centers for Disease Control on Friday, September 4, 2020 imposed a residential eviction moratorium for non-payment of rent in certain limited circumstances through the end of the year due to the impact of COVID-19. That relief required the tenant to certify that 1) the individual has used best efforts to obtain government assistance for the payment of rent, 2) the individual falls below the above-income thresholds ($99,000 for individuals and $198,000 for those filing jointly), 3) the individual can’t pay rent due to loss of income or medical expenses, 4) the individual is using best efforts to pay the rent or as much of it as he can, and 5) eviction would render the individual homeless.
And as we report here, the CDC clarified that Order, allowing for more vigorous actions by landlords pursuing eviction: Cross examination of a tenant who claims he has met the criteria, allowing commencement and pursuit of an eviction action even if the set out is not until after the first of the year, and imposing criminal penalties upon tenants making false certifications.
Our experience in recent evictions is that many tenants cannot stand up under cross examination as to the CDC certifications: They usually have paid no rent at all, which hardly ever complies with the CDC “best efforts” criteria, and it is unlikely the eviction will result in homelessness for the vast majority of tenants.
In Hamilton County, before conducting the forcible entry and detainer hearing, the Magistrate has a separate evidentiary hearing on whether the CDC criteria are met — including allowing a landlord to cross examine a tenant — and then, when the tenant fails to meet this burden, allows the eviction hearing to proceed. In all, the takes an extra 5-10 minutes to try an eviction case and we have not yet failed to exceed the CDC standards.
Add to all of this the fact that an eviction commenced today won’t result in a set out until well into January. Thus, the moratorium no longer has any application to new evictions being filed.
Finally, we don’t know either how the Trump administration will address the regulations after their year-end expiration until his term ends on January 19th, or how the new Biden administration will address the issue thereafter. For both Presidents, the issues are difficult: Millions of tenants are facing severe financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, but on the other hand, landlords have to pay bank loans, real estate taxes, building repairs, and for insurance. Many can’t meet their obligations if tenants are not paying their rent. Then, if they start en masse to default on mortgage loans, it could destabilizing banks as in 2007-08. These are not easy issues for anyone.
So, the next few weeks and months will determine a new course for landlord-tenant legal relationships. Stay tuned for more updates, and contact Chris Finney (513.943.6655) with any Ohio or Kentucky eviction issues you may have.