The CDC’s moratorium on evictions prevents some but not all cases of homelessness

Published: Feb. 8, 2021 at 6:33 PM CST
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -To help stop the spread of COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ordered a moratorium on evictions to prevent homelessness.

After two extensions that moratorium is set to expire on March 31.

In Eau Claire County it’s cut the number of evictions in half compared with 2019 eviction cases.

Experts, though, worry they’ll be a tidal wave of cases once the moratorium is lifted.

Protection from the CDC’s moratorium on evictions isn’t automatic said Lara Sutherlin, a Division Administrator for Wisconsin’s Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

“So what do you have to do to be covered under this order? To be protected by the moratorium, you must complete a declaration form,” Sutherlin said.

On this form, renters have to swear to a “substantial loss of household income” and that they’ve “used best efforts to obtain all available government assistance for rent or housing” among other requirements.

Its protection becomes effective when the completed form is given to the landlord. A landlord is required to accept it.

Sutherlin said this document only focuses on one type of eviction.

“There are some evictions that don’t fall within this order,” Sutherlin said. “The order is predominately towards the nonpayment of rent or not being able to make a housing payment.”

Kristin Slonski’s team at Wisconsin Judicare is seeing cases where the moratorium isn’t protecting against homelessness.

“What if you are in a year long lease that is set to expire?” Slonski said. “Well the argument can be made and has been made by landlords that I’m not kicking you out for failure to pay rent. I’m kicking you out because, or I’m insisting on evicting you because, your lease is up.”

Some of their clients are facing homelessness because they can’t swear to a substantial loss of income.

Landlords can also evict for any lease violation not related to debt even if a tenant applies for CDC protection.

Overall the moratorium is helping keep some in a home for now, but Slonski worries about when the moratorium ends.

“We’ve been sort of holding our breath and saying we’re about to fall off a cliff. We’re about to fall off a cliff,” Slonski said.

Slonski said eviction cases currently filed are being held by the courts until the moratorium is lifted.

Another problem with the moratorium is unpaid rent keeps building up and landlords can charge late fees.

Slonski said usually before an eviction is filed, landlords give tenants five days to pay the rent they owe. Once an eviction case begins, people can become homeless within 15 to 20 days.

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