As more and more Baltimore residents receive the COVID-19 vaccine, the hope is that life may soon return to normal. That said, anyone involved in the rental industry will likely feel the pandemic’s effects long after it is gone. Many tenants in Baltimore City have lost hours or employment altogether, making it difficult to make ends meet. Meanwhile, landlords that have gone without complete or any rental payments wonder, is there any relief in sight? Join us below as we discuss the status of eviction moratoriums and how it affects both landlords and tenants.
What is the Current Status of Eviction Moratoriums?
Can a landlord evict a tenant under the current conditions? Yes and no. As of March 15th, courts entered the next phase in the reopening process, Phase IV. So, that means that courts will begin hearing non-emergency eviction complaints in addition to emergency eviction concerns.
However, the CDC and Executive Orders still affect how the courts handle evictions based on failure to pay rent filings. These orders protect tenants unable to pay rent from being evicted before March 31, 2021. That said, landlords need to realize these orders may extend even further if the government decides. To qualify for protection under the current moratorium, tenants must declare that they meet the following conditions –
- Residents lost income, work, or faced “extraordinary medical expenses” due to the pandemic.
- Earn less than $99,000 annually as an individual or $198,000 for couple filing taxes jointly.
- Tenants made every effort to make partial and on-time payments when possible.
- They made every effort to seek emergency rental assistance through state or government grants.
- Eviction would force the occupants to become homeless or otherwise move to overcrowded conditions.
So, tenants who can confirm these conditions above can use that as a defense in failure to pay rent proceedings. Given the current status of eviction moratoriums, the court may reserve entry of a judgment until after the eviction ban is lifted. Also, landlords must inform the court if any payments are made while the case is either pending or judgment is reserved.
What if the Eviction Case Already had a Hearing?
For any cases where a judgment of possession was granted, those may proceed to eviction. Landlords may continue to file for Warrants of Restitution where allowed by law. However, courts will consider Warrants of Restitution on a case-by-case basis.
Does the Current Status of Eviction Moratoriums Apply to Everyone?
No, the current status of eviction moratorium does not cover every tenant in every situation. Therefore, tenants and landlords must understand their rights and responsibilities. Below are a few key points to consider regarding the status of eviction moratoriums and what it means –
- The CDC Orders and Eviction Moratorium does not apply to every tenant
- Every tenant listed on the lease must submit a declaration to the landlord stating they meet the qualifications from the order above.
- Landlords can still file a failure to pay rent claim in court. If so, tenants may need to prove eligibility for protection and plead their case in court.
- Even if a tenant qualifies for eviction protection, that does not mean they do not owe the back rent or applicable fees. Tenants must still fulfill their financial obligations under the terms of the lease.
- These orders do not waive any fees, interest, or penalties associated with failing to pay rent.
Another important aspect of the orders is that it protects against eviction solely because of failure to pay rent. Therefore, whether a tenant qualifies for protection or not, if the landlord has other lawful reasons to seek eviction, the court may grant it. This includes, but is not limited to, damaging the property, engaging in criminal activity, lease violations, or actions that threaten others’ health and safety.
What Does the Status of Eviction Moratoriums Mean for the Future?
It is no surprise that the pandemic’s effects will be felt for a long time to come. However, the rental industry faces many unique challenges in the future. That said, let’s look at a few of those unique circumstances below and how the status of eviction moratoriums can change the course for landlords and tenants.
- Calm Before the Storm – Individuals and families across the US and throughout Maryland fear the impending wave of evictions coming once the current status of eviction moratoriums end. Pre-pandemic courts in Maryland saw well over 600,000 eviction cases per year. As restrictions in courts ease and hearings resume, the potential eviction rates could be staggering.
- Diminishing Aid – Both the federal and state government have indeed allocated millions of dollars to help tenants dig out from the financial hardship the pandemic caused. That said, experts agree it will take a great deal more to make an impact truly. In addition to being limited funds, tenants that were not quick to apply found that funds quickly disappeared. So, as courts resume, tenants worry that that aid will not come fast enough.
- Disproportionate Evictions – Across Baltimore City, tons of workers have dealt with limited hours due to businesses shutting down or losing employment altogether. However, low-income communities got hit the hardest. Therefore, the eviction rates are higher in these areas.
Tips to Surviving the Eviction Moratorium
Unfortunately for landlords, while some restrictions are easing, eviction is still not an option in every case. Therefore, property owners must look for alternate solutions to mitigate the financial hardship caused by the status of eviction moratoriums. So, read on below for a few suggestions –
- Communication is Key
- Court Mediation
- Postpone the Rent
- Reduce the Rent
- Research Government Assistance
Communication is Key
A solid landlord-tenant relationship begins with professional and open communication. Especially in difficult times, keeping the lines of communication free-flowing is important. That way, landlords can understand where the tenant is coming from and work together to move forward. If the tenants have lost employment, it is best to try and work with them to determine what they can realistically afford and possibly create a separate repayment plan to get them through a rough time.
Eviction is something both landlords and tenants want to avoid in many cases. So, depending on the extent of the issues involved, seeking mediation may help. Mediation is when two parties agree to involve a neutral 3rd party to assist in resolving disputes. For more information on mediation services, check out the court’s website.
Postpone the Rent
The pandemic has been the perfect opportunity for landlords to take a long hard look at their finances. That said if landlords can cover expenses, temporarily postponing the rent may help tenants get back on their feet. Keep in mind, anytime landlords make different payment arrangements; it needs to be in writing. This will avoid any confusion or misunderstanding regarding the tenant’s obligations.
Reduce the Rent
Like the above, accepting a reduced rent is also an option for landlords who can financially afford it. Remember, although this is not the full rent, getting something from the tenants is better than nothing, especially if it is enough to cover expenses. For example, if the rent is $1000 per month, but the minimum to cover expenses is $800, consider negotiating with the tenant to pay a lower amount temporarily.
Research Government Assistance
Helping tenants look for every available avenue of rent payment assistance is in a landlord’s best interest. So, ensure residents are aware of any applicable programs through the CARES Act, Economic Security Act, or Coronavirus Aid.
Also, struggling property owners can seek relief if Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac owns the property’s mortgage. Landlords may be able to delay making payments for a period of time without incurring added fees or a credit score penalty. Additionally, lenders know the struggle many landlords face and may offer solutions to assist landlords through the financial hardship caused by the pandemic. Furthermore, the foreclosure moratorium extends through June 30, 2021.
How Can Landlords Navigate Changing Eviction Regulations?
Keeping up with the changing status of eviction moratoriums is not easy for landlords. Additionally, negotiating with tenants and complying with court filings are time-consuming tasks for property owners already struggling to keep their rental business afloat. That said, what if there was an easier way?
Bay Property Management Group has the local experts that Baltimore City landlords need to help get the most from their rental investment, even in challenging times. Our dedicated team of experienced Baltimore property managers steps in to handle all day-to-day operations while providing owners peace of mind. So, if you need help navigating through the new pandemic guidelines or just want to maximize potential, give us a call today!