How Does the Federal Eviction Moratorium Work? It Depends Where You Live

September 16, 2020

Fending off an eviction could depend on which judge a renter in financial trouble is given, despite a federal government order intended to protect renters at risk of being turned out.

The order, a moratorium imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is meant to avoid mass evictions and contain the spread of the coronavirus. All a qualifying tenant must do is sign a declaration printed from the C.D.C. website and hand it over to his or her landlord.

But it’s not as simple as it sounds: Landlords are still taking tenants to court, and what happens next varies around the country.

Some judges say the order, which was announced on Sept. 1, prevents landlords from even beginning an eviction case, which can take months to play out. Some say a case can proceed, but must freeze at the point where a tenant would be removed — usually under the watchful eye of a sheriff or constable. Other judges have allowed cases to move forward against tenants who insist they should be protected, and at least one judge, in North Carolina, has raised questions about whether the C.D.C.’s order is even constitutional.

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