Q: “How does the CARES Act affect my ability to seek an eviction?”

May 29, 2020

Authored by Jamie Burns

Answer: Depending on the type of property, it may not. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”) was signed into law on March 27, 2020. It includes immediate protections, including an eviction moratorium, for tenants living in certain types of housing. Specifically, the eviction moratorium restricts landlords of “covered properties” from filing new eviction actions for nonpayment of rent. Also, it prohibits “charg[ing] fees, penalties, or other charges to the tenant related to such nonpayment of rent.” The moratorium also provides that a landlord (of a covered property) may not evict a tenant after the moratorium expires except on 30 days’ notice. The notice cannot be given until after the moratorium period expires.

However, the moratorium only applies to “covered dwellings,” which include those dwellings that are on or in “covered properties.” The CARES Act defines “covered properties” as a property that

  1. participates in a “covered housing program” as defined by the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) (as amended through the 2013 reauthorization);
  2. participates in the “rural housing voucher program under section 542 of the Housing Act of 1949”;
  3. has a federally backed mortgage loan (1-4 units); or
  4. has a federally backed multifamily mortgage loan (more than five units).

Federally backed mortgage loans are broadly defined in the CARES Act to include loans secured by any lien on residential properties that are “made in whole or in part, or insured, guaranteed, supplemented, or assisted in any way, by any officer or agency of the Federal Government or under or in connection with a housing or urban development program administered by [HUD] or a housing or related program administered by any other such officer or agency, or is purchased or securitized by the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation or the Federal National Mortgage Association.” If you are unsure whether your loan qualifies, you can start by checking your note, mortgage, closing documents, servicing notices, or account statements. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac also have loan look-up sites available.

Note that the eviction moratorium imposed by the CARES Act does not prohibit the filing of cases: a) that were filed before the moratorium took effect or that are filed after it sunsets; b) that involve non-covered tenancies; or c) where the eviction is based on another reason besides nonpayment of rent or nonpayment of other fees or charges. 

The eviction moratorium under the CARES Act took effect on March 27, 2020, and extends for 120 days. Additionally, under the Act, Landlords that receive forbearances of federally backed multifamily mortgage loans must respect identical renter protections for the duration of that forbearance.

Whether or not the CARES Act applies to your property, it is also essential to check state and local eviction laws and moratoriums to see if your renter is protected or has more expansive protections under state and local laws.

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