Renters across the country will not be forced out of their homes if they can’t pay rent.
This comes from an eviction moratorium issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention following an executive order by the president.
So, why is the CDC’s order enforceable but President Trump’s was not? And, how can it assist North Dakotans put in dire financial situations, due to the pandemic?
“There just wasn’t any teeth behind it,” said Richard LeMay with Legal Services of North Dakota, addressing the president’s order.
LeMay says the president’s order, earlier in the year, didn’t provide any direction for those facing eviction. But, he says it likely prompted the CDC’s order.
“They used public health law and concern, and you know, the purpose of preventing the spread of COVID, to issue this moratorium,” LeMay explained.
The attorney says he’s already seen several cases go through at least three district courts in North Dakota.
“The CARES Act, you had to lose your job or you had to have some financial difficulty because of COVID. The purpose of the CDC order is basically just to not have people become homeless, and living in situations that are going to add to the spread of COVID,” LeMay said.
In all of the cases he knows of in the state, the judge sided with the renters looking to stay in their homes, thanks to the CDC order.
All tenants need to do is complete a declaration form, found on the CDC’s website.
“And that can be done right up to walking into court. They can fill it out in the courthouse, really,” LeMay added.
It’s basically a sworn statement saying you’ve exhausted every resource to try to cover your rent, including government assistance for housing.
In North Dakota, that could be the Rent Bridge Program.
Jennifer Henderson has been in charge of research on the moratorium for the North Dakota Housing Finance Agency.
We asked her if you have to apply for the Rent Bridge first, to qualify for the CDC moratorium.
The Director of Planning and Housing Development responded, “I’m not an attorney, but that does make sense. But it does say just apply. It doesn’t say they have to be approved for it, or anything of that matter, so they should make their efforts.”
We asked, would this declaration cover some people that the Rent Bridge wouldn’t, theoretically?
“Yes,” Henderson said. “It covers any rental situation.”
But it’s not rent forgiveness. As the order stands, come January, rent is due and back payments too, if the landlord decides.
“It is really important to work with your landlord and build that relationship, so you’re both prepared for January 1st,” Henderson emphasized.
“In North Dakota, it’s January 1 and it’s 40 below. You know, I don’t know that anybody is doing a renter any big favor by holding it off until December 31st,” LeMay added.
He advises, regardless of the moratorium, make every effort to pay as much of your rent as possible to avoid a build-up of back payments.
The moratorium has penalties and fees, possibly in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, for anybody who violates it, renters and landlords.
But, it’s unclear who will be overseeing these cases.