Living Through a Pandemic: Evictions During COVID-19
Many workers’ paychecks halted abruptly in the spring. Two weeks came and went – then two months – and still no sign of business-as-usual. Now, months after the global economy shut down due to COVID-19, the complexities of living through a pandemic continue to mount.
The results? Many bills, including rents, have unfortunately albeit understandably, gone unpaid.
Workers in Southwest Georgia aren’t immune to these economic hardships, either. According to Attorney Joe Cargile of Whitehurst, Blackburn and Warren located in Thomasville, Georgia, landlords are now being faced with the difficult decision of presenting tenants with eviction notices – something no one ever wants to do.
Evictions are complicated matters in standard scenarios. Add a pandemic, rushed legislation, and a looming global recession to the mix, and even seasoned landlords may be confused on the proper protocols to follow.
“I think a lot of landlords are fairly savvy,” said Cargile. “They themselves, even without the advice of counsel, understand how to go through the eviction process.
“As we navigate this pandemic though, and the precautions around COVID-19, I think landlords should understand that more protections are in place right now to protect people from being put out on the streets. Now might be the right time to at least call an attorney and talk to someone about the changes that have happened recently.”
One of those recent changes is a Federal Emergency Order issued by the CDC on September 4, 2020 , which runs through January 31st, 2021. While in effect, this order prohibits a landlord from evicting certain tenants. To qualify as a protected tenant under this act, the tenant must meet the following requirements.
Have used their best efforts to obtain government assistance for housing
Are unable to pay their full rent due to a substantial loss of income
Are making their best efforts to make timely partial payments of rent; and
Would likely become homeless or have to move into a shared living setting if they were to be evicted
In addition to these requirements, one of the following financial criteria must apply to qualify for protection:
Tenant expects to earn no more than $99,000 (individuals) or $198,000 (filing joint tax return) in 2020
Tenant was not required to report any income to the IRS in 2019, or
Tenant received an Economic Impact Payment (stimulus check) pursuant to Section 2201 of the CARES Act
“The tenant is going to have to prove to the courts that they’ve exhausted all possible employment options,” added Cargile. And of course, even those who are covered by the protective order are still required to pay the agreed upon rent to their landlords. In the order, the CDC writes:
“The Order halts residential evictions only temporarily. Covered persons still must fulfill their obligation to pay rent and follow all the other terms of their lease and rules of the place where they live.”
2020 has presented both tenants and landlords a variety of new challenges.
If you are a landlord who believes their tenants have not exhausted all possible employment options in order to pay their rent in full, please contact the Whitehurst, Blackburn and Warren team to learn more about your rights.