Eviction Moratorium: Current Restrictions

On September 4, 2020 a temporary national eviction moratorium on evictions for nonpayment of rent was announced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The order was introduced to help renters who were unable to pay their rent due to the impact of the pandemic. It was originally set to expire on December 31, 2020 and had been extended several times before finally being allowed to lapse on July 31st, 2021.

On August 4, 2021 the CDC Director signed an order extending the moratorium once again. This order extends the protection of tenants in certain counties, through to October 3. 

In this series of posts, we will be exploring different aspects of the eviction moratorium and how it impacts landlords.

Qualifying For the Moratorium*

The moratorium does not apply to all tenants. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, in order to qualify, the tenant must give written notice to their landlord that they: 

  • Have “used best efforts to obtain all available government assistance for rent or housing;”
  • Expect to earn no more than $99,000 annually in 2021 (or no more than $198,000 jointly), or were not required to report income in 2020 to the IRS, or received an Economic Impact Payment in 2020 or 2021;
  • Are unable to pay rent in full or make full housing payments due to loss of household income, loss of compensable hours of work or wages, lay-offs, or extraordinary out-of-pocket medical costs;
  • Are making their best efforts to make timely partial payments as close to the full rental/housing payment as possible;
  • Would likely become homeless, need to live in a shelter, or need to move in with another person (aka live doubled-up) because they have no other housing options;
  • Understand they will still need to pay rent at the end of the moratorium (June 30, 2021); and
  • Understand that any false/misleading statements may result in criminal and civil actions.

Who Does the New Order Apply To?

The CDC stated that the new order signed in August, applies only to, “counties with heightened levels of community transmission in order to respond to recent, unexpected developments in the trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the rise of the Delta variant. It is intended to target specific areas of the country where cases are rapidly increasing, which likely would be exacerbated by mass evictions.”

If a county that currently does not have a heightened level of community transmission sees an increase in the number of cases, the order will then apply to them, even if it does not at present. Likewise, if the order currently applies to a county and cases reduce, the order may no longer apply to them. Which counties the order applies to depends on the CDC’s definition of “heightened levels of community transmission”.

In order to know whether or not the order applies to the county in which you live, or in which your property is located, you should refer to the CDC’s Covid County Map.

Can Tenants Still be Evicted? 

In their overview of the national eviction moratorium, the National Low Income Housing Coalition listed the following reasons for which a landlord is still able to evict a tenant:

  • Conducting criminal activity on the property;
  • Threatening the health or safety of other residents;
  • Damaging or posing an immediate and significant risk of damage to the property;
  • Violating applicable building codes, health ordinances, or other regulations related to health and safety; and
  • Violating any contractual obligation other than the timely payment of rent, late fees, penalties, or interest.

Paying Accrued Rent

Tenants are still required to pay accrued rent, meaning many tenants are racking up large sums of unpaid rent that will need to be paid to their landlords eventually.

According to a study by the Aspen Institute, around 15 million people are currently behind on their rental payments and, according to the National Equity Atlas, those households owe over $21 million to landlords. 

It is thought that the new order will allow time for the $46 billion allocated by Congress to assist with the payment of accrued rent to be distributed to those in need.

Next in the series: Eviction Moratorium: What This Means for Individual Landlords

* These bullet points and the information contained there are from the original terms of the moratorium 

Landlords in the Know: Tenant Rights 101

The landlord/tenant relationship is just as important to the landlord as it is to the tenant.

If entered into with care, the lease agreement will protect both you and the renter.

Following are basic tenant rights you, as the landlord, should be aware of when preparing to rent a property.

1. A Positive Landlord Review from the Beginning
Savvy landlords will have current and previous tenants willing to talk to prospective renters about living conditions in the rental unit and area.

Prospective renters have the right to an understand of what it’s like living in the rental and dealing with you as a landlord.

For example, potential tenants may learn that a landlord responds quickly when the rental needs repairs or the building needs maintenance.

It is like free marketing for the landlord.

2. Conduct a Walk-About
Before your tenant signs the lease, you are wise to make sure the tenant does a thorough walk-through of the premises.

Some landlords will accompany the potential tenant on a property tour to document in writing and take pictures of anything broken, damaged or worn.

In some cases, the landlord may give the potential renter a key to let him or her do a walk-through alone. You must change the locks once the property is rented.

A professional landlord documents damages and wear before the tenant enters the apartment alone.

Prospective tenants can document any damage or wear-and-tear they find, and the landlord and tenant will agree to a final reconciled damage list.

You and the tenant should sign and date the document to make it part of the lease package.

3. Landlord and Tenant: Know Thy Lease
Renters must read and understand the lease.

It is advisable to sit down with the tenant and review the lease clause-by-clause.

The tenant can initial each of the contract sections, indicating he or she has read and understands the terms.

Brief the tenant on privacy notification guidelines, conditions for the return of the deposit, and conditions for and consequences of breaking the lease.

4. Landlords: Know What You Can’t Do
Certain landlord actions are illegal, and it is important that you know they are illegal.

  • Refusing to make repairs that affect a tenant’s quality of life or safety
  • Demanding arbitrary rent increases outside the terms of the lease
  • Threatening to evict
  • Preventing tenant associations from meeting in the building’s common room
  • Turning off utilities
  • Locking out a tenant by changing the locks or putting a lock box on the doorknob
  • Placing the tenant’s belongings on the street

Although it may be tempting to lock a tenant out when repeated damage is done to the property, or the tenant falls behind in rent payments or engages in illegal activities on the property, you risk a lawsuit for trespass, wrongful eviction, emotional distress, and even assault and battery, depending on the events.

In every case, you as the landlord must inform the tenant via some type of termination notice.

The names of these documents differ by state, but they may include the “Pay Rent or Quit Notice,” the “Cure or Quit Notice” or the “Unconditional Quit Notice.”

5. When the Landlord Wants the Rental Back
To avoid a claim that a tenant was wrongfully evicted, the lease includes a description of the process to be followed should you want the rented property back for personal reasons.

If the property is rented on a month-to-month basis, the landlord only needs to give appropriate notice to the tenant that the lease is terminated.

If the lease has a fixed term, the landlord must honor the term but does not have to renew it.

The only exceptions are in the rent-control states of New York, California, Maryland, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia.

There are limits on your rights to evict tenants to move yourself, or relatives, into the rental.

For example, in San Francisco, the landlord can evict a tenant to move in a relative as long as the person rents within 3 months and lives in the rental unit for at least 36 months.

What Are Squatters Rights in South Dakota

When specific conditions are met, it is possible for a trespasser to be able to come onto someone’s property, occupy it, and eventually gain an ownership title over it.

This process is called adverse possession and in South Dakota, there are some extensive time requirements that must be met for a claim to be filed.

Sometimes called “Squatter’s Rights,” South Dakota requires four specific components to be present for an adverse possession claim to be filed.

1. Hostile Possession. The trespassers must be occupying a property that is not their own without any permission from the property’s owner.

2. Open Possession. Trespassers cannot be hiding out in a property in order to claim possession of it one day.

Their possession of the property must be open and be as if the property was their own.

This includes having utilities placed in their name at the address if a structure is being applied.

3. Physical Possession. It isn’t possible for a trespasser to leave physical possessions on a property to consider it occupied.

They must physically possess the property in order to eventually file an adverse possession claim.

4. It Must be Exclusive. South Dakota requires the same trespassers to occupy the property in question continuously.

If possession changes from trespasser to trespasser, then the length of occupation requirement will start over.

If all four of these stipulations are met in South Dakota and enough time elapses, then it may be possible to file an adverse possession claim.

How Long Must Trespassers Be In Possession?

South Dakota requires a minimum of 10 years of open and hostile possession of a property that is not currently occupied by someone else.

For example: a family of four leaves for a 3 week vacation, leaving their personal property behind.

Breaking into a home like this may be a criminal matter because it is not considered an abandonment.

A property must be abandoned for trespassers to begin legally squatting.

The 10 year requirement is allowed in circumstances where a document or deed that suggests the squatters are the legitimate owners of the property.

This means that the squatters must be paying the property taxes and improving the property as if they were the owners of it.

If this is not happening, then South Dakota requires a 20 year minimum time of possession that meets the four stipulations listed above.

South Dakota Allows For Partial Property Possession

Being able to occupy an entire structure for at least a decade without permission can be difficult, especially since the possession must be open.

Most adverse possession claims are dismissed simply because the owner of the property discovers the trespassers and begins to take action against them.

The moment that action is taken, all four of the necessary components of a claim are not available and so no claim can be filed.

In comparison, a partial property possession is easier to file an adverse possession claim on.

Let’s say that a neighbor is using the driveway next door to park their vehicle.

This is open and known about, but no action is taken to stop the activity.

After 20 years of doing this, it would become possible for the person parking their car in the driveway to file for an adverse possession claim on that portion of the property.

A neighbor using a walkway in-between houses every day could file for adverse possession, as could a relative who lives in a home where the owner has passed away without deeding it to them in a will.

What Can Owners Do About Adverse Possession?

The first action to be taken against squatters is to remove the hostile nature of the property possession.

The documentation of a rental request or permission to live on the property can potentially stop an adverse possession claim.

Owners who have abandoned properties should also consider checking on those properties from time to time.

Many property owners who go through the foreclosure process may not realize that their home is still in their possession because the lender never filed a claim for the property.

Squatters that move in and live there long enough could file an adverse possession claim in South Dakota and potentially be awarded the property.

Being proactive is the best course of action.

Squatter’s rights exist to help make sure all properties are used in a beneficial manner.

By knowing what the laws are and how they may affect you, then you can take whatever actions are appropriate for your situation.

Are Tenants Protected Against Owner Move-In Evictions

Depending on where you live, you may terminate a lease if you or a family member needs to move into one of your rental properties.

Laws governing these evictions will vary by city, making it pertinent that you check your local regulations.

Read on to learn in which circumstances you may perform an owner move-in eviction (OMI).

Individuals Protected From OMI Evictions
Only certain cities, usually those with rent-controlled apartments, allow for OMI evictions.

Pay close attention to the wording of the law.

Even when these evictions are allowed, there are certain individuals who are protected against them.

One of the primary populations protected against OMI evictions are the elderly.

In most instances, individuals over the age of 60—who have lived in a residence for a certain period—cannot be OMI evicted.

In New York City, for example, an individual over the age of 62 cannot face this type of eviction.

The same holds true for disabled people and those who have been in the apartment for over 20 years.

These rules also usually true for disabled or terminally ill tenants.

Additionally, tenants with children who have lived in a rental property for a set amount of time are also afforded protections.

Looking at San Francisco, families with children who have been in a residence for at least a year are protected.

Always double check your local laws to see the necessary qualifications of protected individuals.

Exceptions
Although the elderly, disabled, and families with young children are often protected, these rules have exceptions in certain circumstances.

For example, San Francisco landlords are allowed to evict families with children as long as the school year has passed.

Again looking at San Francisco, an OMI eviction is permitted against a family with a child if the owner—or their family member—plans on moving in with a child.

This exemption exists for elderly occupants as well. In essence, the party that’s moving in must meet the same requirements that protect the current inhabitants.

These protections are often linked to how long tenants have lived in the rental property.

While an elderly renter may be exempt from OMI evictions after living in a unit for several years, it’s not likely they will have the same protections if they had moved in six months ago.

When OMI Evictions Aren’t Legal
There are also instances where a landlord simply won’t be provided the option to begin an OMI eviction.

In most cases, the landlord must have no other property in which their family member or themselves could move. If the landlord does have another empty rental unit, they must use that one instead of the property that’s occupied.

This is true even if the occupied unit doesn’t have individuals who fall under a protected status.

Additionally, the law often dictates that you must live in the same building as your family member.

If you live in Topeka, for instance, and you’re trying to do an OMI eviction at a property in California, it’s unlikely that the law is on your side.

Undertaking an owner move-in eviction is a difficult process.

When these situations arise, however, there’s a good chance that you or your family member will have a place to stay, so long as you’re undertaking the eviction in good faith.

Explanation of Alabama Renters Rights

In Alabama, the most common reason why tenants will face an eviction is because of their nonpayment of rent.

Under this circumstance, a landlord must provide a written 7 day notice that allows the tenant to become current with any past due rent and late fees that are owed.

If the issue is for a lease violation that doesn’t involve the rent, then a 14 day written notice is required.

Here is an explanation of Alabama renters rights that fall outside of these common circumstances.

1. There Are Security Deposit Restrictions.

Landlords may only charge the equivalent of one month’s rent as a security deposit.

Upon moving out, tenants must receive their remaining funds within 35 days.

If not returned, tenants may sue in small claims court for up to $3,000.

2. The Rental Agreement May Be Enforced Instead Of State Law.

Certain actions are illegal, such as a refusal to provide habitable conditions.

Tenants cannot agree to illegal contract stipulations.

There are certain situations, however, where the rental agreement will take precedence over state law.

The most common issue is raising the rent, which by law requires a 30 day notice unless the lease has different terms.

3. Tenants Cannot Withhold Rent To Repair And Deduct.

If a landlord fails to repair an issue with a rental unit, tenants do not have the option to withhold rent to repair the problem on their own.

If a written notice does not rectify the situation, the tenants may either move out without future rent due or sue the landlord for damages.

4. There Is a 2 Day Notice Of Entry.

Unless there is an emergency situation, landlords must provide tenants with a two day’s notice for entry into a rental unit.

A failure to provide this notice allows a tenant to have the reasonable right to refuse entry.

5. Certain Ordinances Are Governed By Local Laws.

Noise, health and safety, or nuisance regulations may be governed by local laws.

For specific rights in this area, it is necessary to check with the governing jurisdiction that oversees the rental property.

This explanation of Alabama renters rights is not intended to answer every question that may arise in the landlord-tenant relationship.

For specific answers to your situation, be sure to consult with local codes and laws.

Easy Guide to South Carolina Landlord Tenant Law

The landlord tenant law in South Carolina was created in order to simplify the relationship between these two parties.

Here is an easy guide to the state’s laws so that the answers to several common questions can be found.

1. Landlords Must Notify Tenants Of All Key Parties.

Tenants must receive name and address information of anyone authorized to act on their behalf.

This includes vendors who are authorized to enter the premises to make repairs.

2. There Are No Limits On Security Deposit Amounts.

South Carolina does require any deposit remainder to be refunded to tenants within 30 days of moving out.

Cities and counties in the state may have specific rules about this statute that change from time to time.

Non-refundable fees cannot be taken out of the security deposit.

3. Tenants Must Receive a 5 Day Notice For Overdue Rent.

If a tenant has not paid their rent on time, then landlords may, at their discretion, give the tenant a 5 day notice to pay or quit.

If payment is still not received or the tenant has not moved out, then the eviction process can be pursued.

4. Landlords Must Maintain Their Premises.

All state, county, and local building codes must be followed at all times.

Landlords must repair systems to make a rental unit be habitable and safe.

Running water and reasonable amounts of hot water must be made available.

The exterior of the property is also required to be maintained by the landlord unless certain tasks, such as mowing, are assigned to tenants in good faith.

5. There Are Limits Of Liability.

Tenants can sue landlords who are in violation of their rental agreement, but most cases are limited to an amount that is equal to the security deposit plus reasonable legal fees.

If the landlord is found to be punitive in their violations of South Carolina landlord tenant law, then an amount equal to 3x the monthly rent may also be authorized as a judgment.

This easy guide to South Carolina landlord tenant law is not a complete overview on the subject.

If you have any specific questions about your issue, then consul the articles and sections provided by the state for a specific answer.

Arkansas Renters Rights: Things You Need To Know

Renters in Arkansas have comparatively fewer rights than renters in any other state in the USA.

This is evidenced by the fact that Arkansas is the only state that does not require landlords to keep a rental unit in a habitable condition.

It is one of the few states that allows landlords to make a retaliatory eviction if renters begin actions that are not wanted as long as Federal discrimination laws are not violated.

Here are some other things you need to know when it comes to Arkansas renters rights.

1. Tenants Are Not Allowed To Withhold Rent.

If a furnace breaks in the middle of a cold spell, tenants cannot withhold rent money to have the furnace fixed.

The rental agreements in Arkansas require tenants to pay their rent on time no matter what the condition of their rental unit may be.

Tenants who do pay for a needed repair for basic necessities can file a lawsuit in small claims court.

2. Tenants Who Don’t Pay Their Rent Are Referred To Criminal Court.

Arkansas is the only state that considers the non-payment of rent a criminal violation.

If the rent is not paid, it is considered a misdemeanor that can lead to fines and imprisonment.

About 1,200 criminal eviction cases are heard in the state every year.

Tenants who don’t pay on time receive a 10 day notice to vacate or pay and if they fail to do so, they can be arrested.

3. Tenants Are Required To Deposit What They May Owe In Rent If They Plead Not Guilty To Criminal Charges Regarding Their Rent.

If a tenant wishes to contest a 10 day notice should criminal charges be brought against them, Arkansas requires tenants to pay the full amount that they allegedly owe in an escrow account that is supervised by the court.

If the tenant is found guilty, this money is then forfeited to the landlord.

Pleading not guilty also means stiffer fines and up to 90 days in jail.

4. Civil Evictions Are Also Allowed.

Landlords have the option to pursue a civil eviction as well.

This allows them to compel an eviction that is more standard when compared to the rest of the USA.

The same process is followed – a 10 day notice followed by a summons and complaint regarding the situation.

Most tenants just move out during the 10 day period they’re allowed rather than face the eviction process in Arkansas.

The state legislature has been considering new statutes since 2011 regarding these laws, but until new guidelines are passed, these are the things you need to know about Arkansas renters rights.

What Are Squatters Rights in Louisiana

Louisiana requires squatters to meet all common law requirements of adverse possession in order to have a claim to a property title.

This means the possession of the property must be open for everyone to see and be against the wishes of the property owner.

This is referred to as “hostile occupation.”

Squatters must have this possession be continuous in nature for a minimum of 10 years for an adverse possession claim to be heard.

Any time the elements of an adverse possession are not met, the claim for squatters rights will typically be rejected.

The burden of proof for such a claim is generally on the squatters who are attempting to obtain a property title.

In addition to the common elements, these additional factors are also considered within the state of Louisiana should an adverse possession claim be filed on a parcel of property.

1. The Occupation Of a Property Must Be Peaceful.

Squatters cannot disturb the peace in any way when attempting an adverse possession claim.

If law enforcement officials are called to a property on a regular basis because of bothersome activities that are happening on the land, then this may disqualify a petition for adverse possession.

2. There Must Be a Good Faith Element To The Adverse Possession.

The goal of adverse possession laws when they were first created was to make sure that all land and property was put to a productive use in some way.

If the current owner wasn’t doing that or if the land itself was unoccupied, then it could be used by someone else.

Current laws in Louisiana require a good faith element to be part of any claim.

Using abandoned property in a productive way can satisfy this claim, although most claims are because of errors on titles or deeds or alterations to the land by previous owners.

3. Louisiana Allows For More Than Just Surface Land Acquisition Through Adverse Possession.

Mineral rights are also allowed to transfer during a successful adverse possession claim if the squatters are accessing the minerals of a land when the current property owner is not.

If there is no access to the minerals during an occupation of an abandoned property, however, then the mineral rights are treated in the same way as they are for the property owner and will not transfer over.

4. There Is An Element To a Just Title.

In this aspect of Louisiana’s adverse possession laws, a French element of common law has been added that is unique in the US.

It means there must be a prescription for transfer of the property from one person to another.

In the instance when a property owner makes no protest regarding the transfer of a title during an adverse possession claim by squatters, then the transfer will happen with almost certainty.

If a property owner has demonstrated that they have attempted to reclaim their land, then this action alone may be enough to resolve any squatters rights to the property title or deed.

5. There Is Also The Element Of The Color Of Title That Must Be Considered.

Louisiana also requires squatters to maintain a property as if it was their own.

There must be a belief in place that the squatters have some right to the property itself and then operate as if they are the property owner.

This may even include paying any taxes or levies that may be associated with the property.

The 10 year requirement of occupation also applies to the color of title requirement.

This means a property owner who is paying their taxes or levies or attempting to establish their rights to a property may be able to disprove that they have abandoned it.

6. There Are No Disability Allowances In Louisiana.

Some states allow property owners a period of time after an adverse possession claim is filed to clear a disability that may have prevented them from using their property as they wished.

Louisiana is not one of those states.

If no actions are taken during the 10 year period by a property owner, then this is an indication that the property has been abandoned.

This allows an adverse possession claim to be heard. It is purposely difficult for an adverse possession claim to be considered valid because property owner’s do have rights.

There are also squatters rights to be considered, but only when a property owner has given up their own rights.

Consider these key points to make sure your rights are protected.

New Mexico Landlord Tenant Law Explained

New Mexico requires landlords and tenants to perform certain duties in regards to a rental unit.

Who is responsible for what is explained under the statutes of the landlord-tenant laws of the state.

Here is a brief overview of common questions regarding those laws.

1. A Rental Unit Must Be a Clean And Safe Place To Live.

This means tenants must maintain a clean living environment by removing trash and other debris.

If there are pets on the property, then all animal waste must be properly disposed of regularly.

Landlords must make sure the home has services that are provided to it, including water, heat, and pest control.

2. A Rental Agreement Is Limited To The Stipulations That It Can Provide.

Tenants cannot agree to certain stipulations that may be in a lease.

The rules that are included must be designed to improve the appearance of the property and the safety of the tenant.

An equitable delivery of services to all tenants is also required.

Each rule must fulfill a reasonable purpose and not be in place to avoid a landlord’s or a tenant’s legal obligations.

3. Landlords Have a Reasonable Right To Access a Rental Unit.

Tenants must be given a 24 hour written notice for an authorized entry into a rental unit.

Authorized entry includes repairs, inspections, or to show the unit to a prospective buyer.

Repairs that have been requested by the tenant within the past 7 days are exempted from this statute.

Refusal to allow a landlord in without cause is consider a rental agreement violation and can become the basis of an eviction proceeding.

4. Most Lease Violations Have 3-7 Days To Rectify.

If a tenant is late on their rent, then they have 3 days to pay it or the lease will terminate.

Substantial violations also qualify for a 72 hour notice, including criminal or drug-related offenses or lease violations that could harm other tenants.

All other lease violations have a 7 day notice.

5. Tenants Have a Right To Use Their Rental Unit Until Evicted Or They Move.

Tenants cannot be locked out of their rental unit unless the court has ordered their removal.

This is true even when eviction proceedings have been filed.

The New Mexico landlord tenant law explained here is just a small sample of how this unique business relationship is defined.

For specific answers to other questions you may have, be sure to take a look at the full list of laws and how they may apply.

What is the Eviction Process in Colorado

The eviction process in Colorado begins with the recognition that a tenant has violated the terms and conditions of their lease.

The most common cause for this is non-payment of rent, but any lease violation qualifies.

Depending on the violation, here is the process that must be followed.

1. Tenants Must Be Given Notice That They Are Out Of Compliance.

All lease violations in Colorado qualify for a 72 hour notice.

This is referred to as a 3 day demand notice or compliance letter.

This notice must specifically state the violation, when compliance with the lease is required, and what needs to be done to rectify the situation.

2. Violations Of Health, Safety, Or That Are Of a Criminal Nature Have No Right To Cure.

If tenants have a substantial violation of their rental agreement, then a landlord does not need to give the tenant a chance to fix the situation.

They can demand that the tenants leave at the end of the notice period.

3. Month-To-Month Leases Allow For a 10 Day Notice.

If a landlord does not wish to renew a month-to-month rental agreement, then they can send a tenant a 10 day notice that terminates the agreement.

The tenant must then find a new place to live or face the eviction process.

If there is a specific termination date on a lease, then no notice is required at all.

4. Landlords Must File a Summons And Complaint.

Most eviction hearings are held within 10 days of the initial filing by the landlord.

This includes a filing fee that must be paid by the tenant.

If the tenant does not provide an answer to the court, they will face a default judgment for the eviction Tenants can request a court or jury trial.

If all filings are completed on time, then a final hearing will happen.

 

5. A Writ Of Restitution Can Be Obtained The Same Day As a Judgment.

Landlords can receive a writ of restitution on the same day they receive an eviction judgment.

Some law enforcement offices will give tenants 24 hours to leave, but others may not.

Tenants have active defenses against an eviction involving health and safety matters, but landlords must have received a similar 3 day notice regarding this situation.

For specific answers regarding your unique situation, be sure to consult with an attorney in Colorado regarding your landlord-tenant relationship to see what outcomes are available to you.