This is guest post by Tim Ballering
Thanks to Attorney Heiner Giese for reading the 59 page federal court motion.
The CDC’s attorneys have stated in federal court that owners are permitted to file evictions, as well as challenge the veracity of the tenants CDC Declaration. The CDC argues that owners can even obtain an eviction judgment, as long as the physical move is stayed until the end of the moratorium.
Most importantly, the Order does not prevent a landlord from filing an eviction action in state court. First, the Order expressly permits eviction for various reasons other than nonpayment of rent. See 85 Fed. Reg. at 55294 (property damage, criminal activity, etc.). Second, nowhere does the Order prohibit a landlord from attempting to demonstrate that a tenant has wrongfully claimed its protections. And third, even where a tenant is entitled to its protections, the Order does not bar a landlord from commencing a state court eviction proceeding, provided that that actual eviction does not occur while the Order remains in place. See id. at 55292 (“the order prevents these persons from being evicted or removed from where they are living through December 31, 2020”); id. at 55293 (defining “evict” as “to remove or cause the removal of”).
The CDC attorneys further state that owners are permitted to sue tenants for nonpayment in civil court. This creates an interesting situation where an owner who is not receiving rent can garnish wages.
Where tenants fail to pay rent, nothing in the Order precludes landlords from filing a breach of contract action seeking payment. Plaintiffs may prefer a different remedy, but they plainly have access to a judicial forum.
id. at page 43
This critical interpretation of the CDC Order is from its legal counsel, the US Dept. of Justice, in a brief in filed in the Brown v. Azar case, the federal court case in Atlanta seeking to overturn the CDC Order.
This is very different than what owners are being told by the tenant’s attorneys as well as local courts.
Personally I am not opposed to the moratorium if the tenant truthfully fills out the CDC Declaration, which includes an actual substantial loss of income, partial payments to the best of the tenants’ ability and having applied for all applicable government assistance.
The concern is when tenants are using the CDC Order as a “Get Out Of Rent Free” card and submitting knowingly false Declarations. For example we received our first Declaration last week. The tenant listed SSI as her sole source of income on her application, so she did not suffer a substantial loss of income. She also has failed to apply for either the Community Advocates nor the WRAP funding.