United States:

Residential Eviction Moratorium Update


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NOTE: On May 19, Governor Brown signed SB 282 into
law.

As the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out continues and summer approaches,
there is optimism that life may slowly be returning to
normal—or at least a new type of normal. However, residential
tenants who have been unable to pay rent throughout last year’s
global pandemic are facing serious concerns regarding how to pay
overdue rent. This is a scary prospect for individuals struggling
to make ends meet and there is a sizable population of Oregonians
behind on their rent payments. According to the U.S. Census Bureau,
almost 17% of Oregon renters surveyed in early March were not
caught up on rent payments.

In response to this concerning statistic, in December 2020 the
Oregon Legislature passed HB 4401, extending a pre-existing moratorium on residential
evictions
 for nonpayment of rent from December 31, 2020 to
June 30, 2021. The bill also created a landlord compensation fund
making grants available for up to 80% of unpaid rent not collected
from qualified tenants after April 1, 2020. However, participation
in this program is optional and, while the exact details on
participation rates are not public, there is no question that
certain landlords may prefer to litigate for unpaid rent, rather
than utilize the compensation fund.

On May 11, the Oregon Legislature passed Senate Bill 282 to extend until February
28, 2022 the grace period for repayment of residential rent accrued
between April 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021. If the governor signs this
legislation—which she is likely to do—it will provide
significant relief to renters and may encourage increased
participation in the landlord compensation fund as well. SB 282
will also temporarily prevent landlords from enforcing rental
occupancy limits and prevent landlords from reporting unpaid rent
to credit agencies, amongst other remedies.

On the federal level, significant news came out of the U.S.
District Court for the District of Columbia on May 5, as the court
ruled that the Center for Disease Control’s September 4, 2020
residential eviction moratorium was unconstitutional. The
moratorium applied to residential properties nationwide and was set
to expire on June 30, 2021. In her opinion, Judge Friedrich wrote that while
the CDC has the ability “to combat the spread of disease
through a range of measures…these measures plainly do not
encompass the nationwide eviction moratorium set forth in the CDC
Order.” The case was immediately appealed by the U.S.
Department of Justice and the ruling was stayed pending the appeal.
The ramifications of the appellate ruling could be significant. If
the district court ruling is upheld, it may discourage further
congressional efforts to protect renters through moratoria and
other related measures.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.

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