On September 1, 2020, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) released an Order titled “Temporary Halt in Residential Evictions to Prevent the Further Spread of COVID-19” (the “Order”). The Order is effective Friday, September 4, 2020, and expires December 31, 2020.
ORDER APPLIES TO ALL 50 STATES
This Order applies to all states without an existing eviction moratorium providing “the same or greater level of public-health protection” than the Order’s requirements. The Order will apply in Arizona because the Order provides greater protection than Governor Ducey’s Executive Order halting the execution of writs of restitution.
Based on the Order’s language, I believe a landlord can still serve a 5-day non-payment of rent notice and even file an eviction action for non-payment in court, but if the tenant presents the landlord with the declaration, the writ of restitution could not be executed and the tenant could not be removed from the property. Unfortunately, however, we do not know this for sure.
It is possible the Order was intended to prohibit even the filing of an eviction action, this is a question that will likely need clarification from the Arizona Supreme Court.
ORDER IS ISOLATED TO EVICTIONS FOR NON-PAYMENT
The Order only applies to cases involving non-payment of rent. It does not prohibit evictions based on criminal activity; threats to health and safety of others; damaging or posing an “immediate and significant” risk of damage to property; violating any applicable building code, health ordinance, or violating other contractual obligations. I believe, based on the Order’s language, that non-renewals will still be permissible—although this is just an initial opinion.
TENANT’S DECLARATION OF PROTECTION
To invoke the Order’s protection, the tenant must provide their landlord with an executed declaration stating that:
- The tenant has used best efforts to obtain all available government assistance for rent or housing;
- The tenant either: (i) expects to earn not more than $99,000.00 in annual income in 2020 (or no more than $198,000 if filing jointly); (ii) was not required to report any income to the IRS in 2019; or (iii) received a stimulus check pursuant to Section 2201 of the CARES Act;
- The tenant is unable to pay the full rent because of substantial income loss, loss of compensable work hours or wages, a lay-off, or extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses;
- The tenant is using best efforts to make timely partial payments that are as close to the full payment as their circumstances permit, taking into account other nondiscretionary expenses; and
- An eviction would likely render the tenant homeless or force them to move into close quarters in a new congregate or shared living setting because the individual has no other housing options.
Note, landlords do not get to verify the information in the affidavit, the tenant is protected by simply signing the declaration and delivering it to the landlord! Additionally, this Order applies to ALL types of residential rental properties: houses, buildings, mobile homes, land in a mobile home park, or similar dwellings leased for residential purposes.
SEVERE PUNISHMENT FOR LANDLORDS WHO VIOLATE THE ORDER
The Order states that the U.S. Department of Justice may initiate court proceedings against landlords for violations. Penalties for violating the Order are extreme; they are both criminal and financial. For individual landlords: If the violation does not result in a death, the penalty is a fine of not more than $100,000 or one year in jail, or both; If the violation results in a death, the penalty is a fine of not more than $250,000 or one year in jail, or both;
For now, it appears we can proceed with eviction filings. However, if a resident provides a signed declaration or attestation—that even closely resembles what is required in the Order—immediately stop all eviction action.
If you are an Arizona landlord and have questions about how the CDC’s new Order applies to your rental properties then contact the landlord – tenant attorneys at the Dunaway Law Group at 480-389-6529 or message us HERE.