Months after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a nationwide eviction moratorium using its emergency pandemic powers under the Public Health Service Act, the efficacy of this unprecedented measure remains unclear. While the Order ostensibly protects tenants facing homelessness or housing insecurity due to the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic through the end of 2020, legal challenges have been initiated in Ohio and Georgia, with additional lawsuits appearing likely. Further, even barring legal challenges, courts have not handled these cases in a uniform manner. With lawmakers unable to reach any stimulus or COVID-19 relief agreement before the election, the CDC Order appears likely to remain the only federal eviction moratorium through its expiration on December 31, 2020.
Since the Order’s enactment, the CDC has since released new guidance, answering some of the open questions not covered by the initial Order. This guidance, while non-binding, is largely more favorable to landlords and property management companies than the initial text of the Order, as it provides that landlords are not required to make tenants aware of the Order’s protections and may challenge the truthfulness of the tenants’ declarations in any state or municipal court. The guidance also clarified the potential criminal penalties for violating the Order and the criminal penalties for perjury for bad faith submissions of the requisite declaration by tenants.