Federal eviction ban longer than Ducey’s The Chandler Arizonan

Federal eviction ban longer than Ducey’s

Federal eviction ban longer than Ducey’s
City News

By Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services

A new federal directive could provide Arizona renters with new protections even if the state Supreme Court rules that an anti-eviction order by Gov. Doug Ducey is illegal and unenforceable.

And it would be in place for a longer period of time.

The order by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention prohibits millions of renters from being ousted from their homes or apartments for nonpayment of rent.

It is far more expansive than earlier federal directives that covered only federally financed rental units. The conditions to get the relief also could be seen as more liberal than those imposed by Ducey.

The new order goes through the end of the year while Ducey’s expires Oct. 31.

The action came as the Arizona Multi-housing Association is trying to convince the Arizona Supreme Court that it should override the governor’s eviction ban, contending the emergency powers that lawmakers gave governors decades ago amounts to seizure of property.

But assuming the CDC order is valid – no challenges filed so far – it could mean that the Arizona landlords could win their lawsuit and still not be able to evict tenants.

There was no immediate response from either the landlord organization or its legal team.

The new federal directive has a multi-part test to qualify.

The tenant must have “used best efforts’’ to obtain all available government assistance for rent or housing, though the order does not define what that involves.

Tenants must make undefined “best efforts’’ to make timely partial payments “that are as close to the full payment as the individual’s circumstances may permit.’’

There is an income cap of $99,000 for individuals and $198,000 for couples.

Also required is a reason for the inability to pay rent, which can be “substantial’’ loss of household income, loss of work hours or wages, a layoff or “extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses.’’

The last category includes unreimbursed medical expenses likely to exceed 7.5 percent of an individual’s gross income for the year.

Finally, there is a requirement for an applicant to say that eviction likely would leave the person or family homeless or force them to live “in close quarters.”

That last provision could provide the legal underpinnings for the order to be considered valid.

“Housing stability helps protect public health because homelessness increases the likelihood of individuals moving into congregate setting, such as homeless shelters, which then puts individuals at higher risk to COVID-19,’’ the directive states.

It says the ability of these facilities to allow for social distancing and other infection control measures decreases as crowding increases.

“Unsheltered homelessness also increases the risk that individuals will experience severe illness from COVID-19,’’ the CDC states.

As with Ducey’s own order, the CDC says none of this removes the legal obligation of anyone to pay under lease agreements. And it allows landlords to collect late fees, penalties and interest.

Under the CDC order, violators can be fined $100,000 and jailed for up to a year; for business enterprises the fine is $200,00 per violation or $500,000 if it results in death.

Ducey’s order has a separate list of what can exempt a tenant and allows a judge to order an eviction when it is “necessary in the interest of justice’’ or for other violations of the lease, like lying about the number of occupants, pets, income, employment or a criminal record.

The CDC actions drew a mixed reaction from National Low Income Housing Coalition President Diane Yentel, who called it “badly needed” but also a “half-measure’’ because it delays evictions and provides no financial relief.

She urged Congress and the White House to try to iron out differences in a COVID-19 relief bill which she said would provide at least $100 billion in emergency rental assistance.

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