Thanks to the eviction moratorium put in place by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in September due to COVID-19, renters down on their luck can't be evicted for the rest of the year. And while that's certainly good news for renters, landlords, on the other hand, are left in a bad situation. For some, it's meant serious financial losses due to unpaid rent. Others are stuck with terrible tenants they just can't get rid of. Are you in the latter boat? Here are some options to explore.
Try to prove they don't qualify for the eviction moratorium
Not every renter qualifies for the moratorium. Under the CDC rule, the tenant must:
- Have made efforts to obtain government rental assistance.
- Not earn more than $99,000 (single filer) or $198,000 (joint) for 2020.
- Have a substantial loss of income or a layoff (or other extraordinary expenses).
- Need to be making their best efforts to make on-time rent payments.
If you don't believe the renter meets these requirements (or they haven't filed the declaration form required in order to qualify), you might consider bringing in an attorney and pursuing eviction based on their lease violations or nonpayment. Keep in mind this could take longer than the moratorium actually lasts.
Impose a high interest rate or fee on unpaid rent starting January 2021
The CDC order only prevents evictions; it doesn't excuse tenants from paying rent. If your tenant isn't paying their rent on time, you're free to impose any fees, penalties, or interest that you've noted in your lease agreement. Often, these penalties are enough to push a tenant to vacate the property, especially as the moratorium gets closer to running out.
Stop providing maintenance and repairs or maintaining amenities
If the tenant is violating their lease or failing to make rent (or in many cases, both), you may have the right to refuse repairs and maintenance. The exact law around this depends on your state, so make sure to talk to a local real estate attorney before going this route.
A quick note here: While withholding repairs and maintenance may encourage a tenant to leave, it could also damage your property -- meaning more repair costs down the line.
Other steps to take
You should also think long and hard about bringing new units to the market during the moratorium period. If you do, be very strict about which tenants you allow in. You may even consider increasing your security deposit just to be safe. This will ensure you're not stuck with additional problem tenants while the moratorium is still in place.