Starting September 4, tenants will be protected from eviction until the end of 2020. This new government order comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and applies to renters who make less than $99,000 (or $198,000 for joint filers).
In order to apply for protection, tenants must fill out forms available on the CDC’s website. Tenants will need to declare a significant disruption to their income, such as the loss of a job, reduction of hours, or extraordinary medical expenses. Tenants must also demonstrate they have made a substantial effort to apply for government aid or other assistance, and show that eviction could result in homelessness or force them to live in close quarters with a lot of other people. This new order is expected to cover far more renters than previous federal efforts that expired in July.
At this time, it is unclear how Vermonters may benefit since the CDC’s order does not apply to states where there are already eviction protections that provide “the same or greater level of public-health protection.”
Back in May of this year, Governor Phil Scott signed a bill that protects Vermonters from evictions during the Vermont COVID-19 State of Emergency. To help tenants catch up on any back payments to their landlords, the bill extended the eviction protection to 30 days after the state of emergency has concluded. The Vermont law did not freeze rents or provide rent forgiveness. The new CDC order similarly does not offer financial assistance to tenants—renters are still responsible for their rental payments. Neither piece of legislation prevents evictions due to other violations of rental contracts, such as unsafe living conditions.
One scenario where the CDC order may apply to Vermonters is if Vermont’s state of emergency ends before January 1, 2021. In this scenario, Vermont renters would be prevented from eviction until the end of the year by the federal order rather than state legislation.
Both the Vermont law and the CDC order are intended primarily to avoid a significant rise in homelessness during COVID-19, but do nothing to help alleviate back payments due to months of unemployment. There has been ample criticism from the National Multifamily Housing Council and renters, who say that the CDC’s moratorium on evictions is just “kicking the can down the road.” It can be difficult to recover from months of lost income in the best of times—COVID-19 makes it even more difficult. Without financial assistance, renters and landlords may need to come up with alternative arrangements after these measures expire. Recent reports show just under 40,000 Vermonters are unemployed.
If you are having trouble paying your rent, there may be other solutions. The Vermont State Housing Authority Rental Housing Stabilization Program is accepting applications for payment assistance. If you move to a new, affordable rental unit, this program may also help pay your security deposit and your first and last month’s rent.
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