What to know if you can’t make your rent payments

Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said renters can’t be evicted from their residence if they are financially unable to make payments.

Issued to help prevent further spread of COVID-19, the moratorium extends through the end of the year and applies to specific circumstances.

If you are having a difficult time making rent payments, here’s a summary of the new CDC moratorium as well as information about Utah’s COVID-19 rental assistance program.

CDC requirements

The CDC order contains these key components:

First, the CDC eviction moratorium only applies to situations where someone is unable to make their rent payment. Landlords may still evict tenants based on criminal activity, threatening health/safety, damaging property, violating codes/ordinances and failure to comply with other contractual obligations.

That means anyone seeking eviction relief must continue to abide by the terms and requirements in their lease.

Second, the eviction moratorium is not rent forgiveness. All amounts required under the lease are still due. The landlord is also permitted to charge late fees, penalties and interest according to the terms of the lease.

Renters should regularly communicate with their landlord about what amounts have accrued and work to make as many payments as possible. The CDC order requires renters to have made their “best efforts to make timely partial payments that are as close to the full payment as the individual’s circumstances may permit.” Tenants who owe back rent may face eviction after Dec. 31, 2020.

Third, the moratorium requires renters to have used their “best efforts to have obtained government assistance for rent or housing.”

Fourth, the moratorium only applies to those who expect to earn less than $99,000 (or $198,000 for a joint return), those who were not required to report income in 2019 or those who received a stimulus check as part of the CARES Act. The renter must have also experienced a substantial loss in income or had extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses.

Finally, renters must complete the CDC’s declaration form and submit it to their landlord. In this declaration, renters assert that they meet the requirements and would likely become homeless or required to live with other people in close quarters if evicted.

Rental assistance

Utah has used funding from the CARES Act to establish a pandemic rental assistance program for those who need help making their rent payments. Those who qualify may receive up to $2,000 a month to pay for rent and utilities.

To qualify for rental assistance, you cannot make more than the median income in your area. You must also show that you have had a loss of income or financial hardship related to COVID-19. The residence must also be in Utah.

To learn more about the rental assistance program, visit the Utah Department of Workforce Services website at jobs.utah.edu. Look for information on the Pandemic Housing Assistance program. The website will direct you to the local organization in your area that is managing the rental assistance program. Renters may also call 2-1-1 to find their local agency.

Landlords are also allowed to apply for rent assistance on behalf of their tenants. Information about the Landlord Housing Assistance Program is available on jobs.utah.gov. Landlords must apply for the funds each month and rent payments will go directly to the landlord.

The rental assistance program ends Dec. 30, 2020. Funds are only available to tenants and landlords who have not received assistance from other local, state or federal resources.

To learn more about other real estate issues related to the pandemic, contact a local Realtor. Find a directory of Utah Realtors at MyRealtorStory.com.