Duane Morris Government Strategies

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The COVID-19 Housing Crisis

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Covid-19 has spiked in several states.  The poor, the elderly, and people of color face the toughest times as COVID-19 is disproportionately impacting them.  The economic recession is making it harder for many from these communities to afford rent.  It is much worse for those who do not have a place to stay at all, as temporary eviction suspensions end.  According to Brookings, 1 in 3 Americans did not pay rent and are still facing evictions despite moratoriums.

California

On March 4, 2020,  Governor Gavin Newsom declared a California-wide state of emergency (N-44-20) that (among other price controls) automatically caps rent increases. Via two separate orders, Newsom allowed cities and counties to enact their tenant protections (3/16/20 Executive Order N-28-20) and to extend those protections through September 30, 2020, if they choose to do so. (6/30/20 Executive Order N-71-20).

The State Court issued emergency moratoriums on the summons of complaints, entries of default, and scheduling trial for unlawful detainers and entries of default.

California also has a utility shutoff moratorium for nonpayment during the State of Emergency.

Experts warn California could see a 20% increase in homelessness, in part due to the pandemic.  Governor Newsom has also reportedly been entertaining proposals that environmental regulations be waved for parts of California to convert hotels into homeless housing, leveraging federal coronavirus funding to support the measure.

Nevada

By order of the governor, the eviction ban will be phased out from July 31, 2020, through August 31, 2020. Additionally, NV Energy suspended disconnections for nonpayment.

Before the pandemic, the National Low Income Housing Coalition noted that 81% of Nevada’s extremely low-income renter households had severe cost burdens, with 20% of Nevada renters being in extremely low-income households. In Nevada, $25,100 is the maximum income threshold for a 4-person household to be considered meager income.  These percentages will be considerably worse with the economic crisis the pandemic triggered.

To deal with this, the Nevada Housing Division has created a CARES Housing Assistance Program in conjunction with the Governor and State Treasurer to help struggling residents pay their rent. To qualify for the program, residents must meet the following criteria before going onto the rest of the program’s qualifications:

  • COVID-19 impacts such as loss of employment, reduction in work hours or reduction in wages
  • Income restrictions (decided by county)
  • Are not receiving Federal Housing Voucher aid
  • The household has liquid resources less than $3,000

Nevada housing voucher recipients can get rental adjustments if they are experiencing a loss or reduction in employment for more than seven consecutive days.

Minnesota

Governor Tim Walz signed executive order to suspend evictions during the emergency, currently set to expire August 12, 2020.

Additionally, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission has encouraged utilities to extend the state’s cold weather rule to prevent shutoffs.

The Minnesota Housing website also provides resources for renter and homeowners. The COVID-19 Housing Assistance Program (CHAP) was also launched with the state’s CARES act funding.  CHAP was designed to prevent COVID-19 induced homelessness and help maintain housing stability.  According to the program’s website:

The program will assist individuals and households that have been impacted by COVID-19 through unemployment, illness, or other COVID-19 related circumstances.  Funds will be awarded to administrators to assist households that have a rent payment, mortgage payment, homeowner association dues, contract for​ deed payment, homeowner insurance payment, utility payment​, or other housing-related expenses incurred after March 1, 2020, that is past due.

New Jersey

Governor Phil Murphy’s order prohibits the removal of tenants from residential properties and postpones enforcement of all judgments for possessions, warrants of removal, and writs of possession.  Additionally, the New Jersey Governor signed an executive order on April 24 providing short-term rental support for renters throughout the state. New Jersey also suspended rent increases in all New Jersey state-regulated housing properties. The state is also providing free foreclosure counselors to help connect homeowners to financial assistance to prevent foreclosures.

Under the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, New Jersey utilities have suspended shutoff orders.

Brookings Recommendations

Brookings researchers note that future pandemics and natural disasters will put similar strains on housing systems.  Policymakers concerned with the lack of affordable, stable, quality housing should focus on three goals:

  • Increase the amount of long-term affordable rental housing, especially in high-opportunity communities.
  • Protect existing affordable rental housing from physical deterioration and financial insecurity.
  • Support affordable housing projects currently in the pipeline that face financial obstacles due to the pandemic.

States with Eviction Moratoriums

StateTenant Protections/Notes
AlabamaGovernor’s order expired on June 1, 2020.
– Public Service Commission states that it is confident no customers will experience interruption during the crisis, and that after the crisis period, utilities will help with past-due accounts. However, the decision is left to individual utility providers.
AlaskaAlaska State Legislature passed a bill placing a moratorium on utility shutoffs (set to expire on the earlier of November 15, 2020, or the end of the public health disaster emergency) and evictions (set to expire June 30, 2020) due to COVID-19 financial problems. Set to expire June 30, 2020.
Alaska Supreme Court ordered that non-jury matters can proceed as of July 1, 2020.
-See Regulatory Commission of Alaska’s memo on utility shutoff moratorium.
Telephonic eviction hearings can be held in certain circumstances.
ArizonaGovernor issued an executive order delaying evictions until October 31, 2020. Applies to tenants who cannot pay rent due to coronavirus-related issues.
-Arizona Supreme Court issued an order directing courts on how to handle evictions once the moratorium is over
Governor and state’s largest utilities reached an agreement not to shut off utilities or charge late fees or penalties during the crisis.
Arkansas-Arkansas Public Service Commission ordered a shutoff moratorium during the state of emergency.Courts are still open and conducting hearings (not in person) when possible.
Colorado-Under the governor’s order (and renewal order), landlords can provide tenants with default notices but must give 30 days’ notice, effectively postponing evictions for 30 days. Property owners cannot charge late fees or penalties for nonpayment from May 1, 2020, through August 11, 2020.
Connecticut-By order of the governor, no evictions until August 25, 2020; the governor also created a rental assistance program.
Moratorium on electric, natural gas, and water shutoffs in response to the pandemic.
DelawareDelaware Housing Assistance Program will provide eligible households up to $1500 in assistance to pay rent or electric bills.
-By order of the governor, all residential foreclosures and evictions during the state of emergency. Also, no utility shutoffs.
District of ColumbiaNo evictions during the state of emergencyLawmakers have suspended the filing of eviction complaints until 60 days after the end of the state of emergency.
No utility shutoffs during the state of emergency.
Florida-By the governor’s order, all evictions (and foreclosures) are suspended until August 1, 2020.
-Most major utilities providers have said they will not shut off services.
Hawaii-By order of the governor, evictions for nonpayment of rent suspended until July 31, 2020.
Hawaii Electric suspended service disconnections until June 30, 2020.
Idaho-By order of Idaho Supreme Court, no jury trials in criminal cases before 8/3/2020, and no jury trials in civil cases until 10/5/2020. Remote hearings on all matters may resume on May 1, 2020.
Illinois-By governor’s order, no evictions through August 22, 2020.
Illinois Commerce Commission ordered utilities to cease disconnections and suspend late fees until the end of the emergency. In place until August 1, 2020. Also offering resources for consumers.
Indiana-By order of the governor, no eviction procedures (unless for emergency reasons) until July 31, 2020.
-By order of the governor, no discontinuation of utilities until after June 30, 2020.
Iowa-By order of the supreme court, hearings and non-jury trials may resume before July 13, 2020, depending on the county court’s status. Check with the local court for more information.
KansasUtilities are required to offer payment plans.
Kentucky-By order of the Kentucky Supreme Court (and by order of the governor), evictions are suspended until the expiration of the state of emergency declared in Executive Order 2020-215.
Kentucky Public Service Commission ordered utilities to cease disconnections for nonpayment and late payment charges.
Louisiana-No utility service shutoffs statewide by order of the LA Public Service Commission.
Maine-By order of the governor, no evictions until 30 days after the termination of the COVID-19 state of emergency.
Maine Public Utilities Commission ordered that all utilities not disconnect customers until further notice.
-MaineHousing has created a $5 million COVID-19 Rent Relief Program.
Maryland-By the governor’s order, no evictions statewide during the emergency.
-By the governor’s order, no utility can terminate service or collect a late fee until termination of the state of emergency.
-Baltimore County has implemented a COVID-19 Eviction Prevention Program and is accepting applications from June 9 through June 12.
MassachusettsA legislative ban on evictions during COVID emergency; extended by the governor through October 17, 2020.
No utility shutoffs until the state of emergency is lifted or the Dep’t of Public Utility orders otherwise.
Michigan-Michigan is offering an Eviction Diversion Program for renters who need assistance.
-Many Michigan utility providers agree to suspend shutoffs.
By order of the governor, no water shutoffs.
MississippiGovernor announced that evictions could resume on June 1, 2020.
Supreme Court of Mississippi issued an order stating that certain counties may resume sending jury summonses on or after May 18, 2020; gives judges discretion on many cases.
-Mississippi Public Service Commission ordered a temporary suspension of disconnection by any public utility in the state. (Until May 14, 2020.)
MissouriSupreme Court of Missouri has directed courts to exercise discretion regarding cases (effective May 16, 2020) and appearances subject to specific Operational Directives. Whether or not a case will be held is left to the discretion of the judge.
Montana-By order of the governor, no terminations, evictions, or utility shutoffs for those who meet the criteria listed in the order. All others may be evicted/have utilities disconnected.
Nebraska-Visit the Nebraska Public Service Commission’s website to see a list of utility providers who have agreed not to shut off service.
-Nebraska Public Service Commission is allowing utility carriers to seek reimbursement for providing service to low-income families.
New Hampshire-By order of the governor, evictions can resume on July 1, 2020.
-The state has created the New Hampshire Housing Relief Program.
-By the governor’s order, prohibition on the disconnection of electric, gas, water, and telephone service will end on July 15, 2020.
New MexicoNM courts have placed a temporary moratorium on the eviction.  Renters must provide the court with evidence of the current inability to pay rent at hearing on the eviction petition. Eviction hearings will be held by video or phone unless parties file a motion for an in-person hearing.
New Mexico Public Regulation Commission ordered the suspension of residential customer utility service during the public health emergency.
New YorkThe state legislature approved a moratorium on evictions for the remainder of the COVID emergency.
Governor ordered a moratorium on evictions until August 20, 2020. The order also includes direction regarding property owners’ use of security deposit to cover unpaid rent, collecting late fees, and repaying unpaid rent.
-No water shutoffs, most utilities have agreed to not shut off during the outbreak.
North Carolina-The eviction ban expired on June 20, 2020. –North Carolina Utilities Commission suspended utility shutoffs and late fees during the state of emergency.
North Dakota-By order of the supreme court, evictions have resumed as of April 22, 2020.
OhioGovernor requested landlords not to evict tenants.
Ohio Supreme Court has advised all lower courts to continue eviction-related matters. Not a requirement.
All regulated Ohio utilities have suspended disconnections during coronavirus threat.
Oklahoma-Evictions may proceed, but, by order of the Supreme Court of Oklahoma, anyone filing an eviction must certify that the property is not covered under the federal CARES Act.
Public Service Company of Oklahoma has suspended all service disconnections for nonpayment.
Oregon-Legislature passed a bill prohibiting evictions through September 30, 2020.
Governor updated order, clarifying that landlords may not take any action relating to evictions, including charging late fees or filing eviction papers.
Oregon PUC confirms the suspension of shutoffs.
Pennsylvania-By order of the governor, eviction proceedings on hold until August 31, 2020.
Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission’s order prohibiting termination of utilities.
Rhode Island-By order of the supreme court, evictions can resume after June 1, 2020.
Rhode Island and Providence Plantations Public Utilities Commission ordered a halt on termination of service for nonpayment through May 8, 2020, for residential accounts.
South Carolina-Supreme Court of South Carolina ordered all currently ordered and scheduled evictions to resume May 15, 2020.  The court will accept applications for evictions as of May 15, 2020, as well.
-Any party pursuing an eviction must submit to the court a signed, original Certification of Compliance with the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. –Public Service Commission of South Carolina ordered that all regulated utilities suspend disconnection for nonpayment during the state of emergency.
South Dakota-Check South Dakota Unified Judicial System for the status of cases.
-Check South Dakota PUC website for resources related to utilities.
Tennessee-Tennessee Supreme Court ordered that evictions may resume June 1, 2020.
-By order of Tennessee Public Utility Commission, no utility shutoffs during the state of emergency.
Texas-Unless there is a local order protecting tenants from evictions, courts can issue eviction citations and eviction hearings can start as of May 19, 2020.
Public Utility Commission of Texas extended the suspension of disconnections for nonpayment until June 13, 2020. The moratorium on late fees ended on May 15, 2020. The Electricity Relief Program expires on July 17, 2020.
-TXU Energy is offering customer support resources.
Vermont-By order of the Vermont Supreme Court, non-emergency court hearings can resume after May 31, 2020. Check with the local court to confirm. However, evictions are banned until the end of the state’s declared emergency.
Vermont Public Utility Commission ordered a moratorium on utility disconnections for nonpayment. (Until May 31, 2020.)
VirginiaVirginia Corporation Commission suspended the disconnection of utility service until August 31, 2020.
Governor ordered that all relevant state agencies work to create strategies to help Virginians avoid evictions or foreclosures.
Washington-Governor ordered a statewide ban on residential evictions until August 1, 2020.  Also, property owners cannot assess late fees or other charges for nonpayment of rent.
Governor issued a proclamation urging utilities not to turn off service.
West Virginia-By order of the supreme court of appeals, the judicial state of emergency expires May 15, 2020.
Wisconsin-The state is launching the Wisconsin Rental Assistance Program for people who have lost income.
-Governor issued a utility-related emergency order.
Wyoming-Wyoming Supreme Court ordered the suspension of all in-person proceedings (with certain exceptions) until May 31, 2020, stating that good cause exists to continue most matters.
Wyoming Public Service Commission authorized utilities not to cut service and charge fees (i.e., leaves decisions regarding shutoffs to the discretion of the utility).

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