BOISE, Idaho — Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the Idaho Press.
Jesse Tree of Idaho, a Boise nonprofit that seeks to prevent homelessness, has seen a steady number of evictions despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s eviction moratorium.
There are 13 eviction hearings in Ada County this week, including five on Christmas Eve, and seven in Canyon County, Jesse Tree Executive Director Ali Rabe said.
Since the CDC issued the temporary moratorium in September, banning evictions of people who lost work because of the pandemic, there have been 298 eviction hearings scheduled in Ada and Canyon counties, many of them resulting in eviction, according to Jesse Tree.
The federal ban only applies to evictions related to nonpayment, not evictions stemming from other issues such as alleged criminal behavior. The numbers provided by Jesse Tree include all eviction proceedings regardless of cause.
Evictions continue at full speed because of the moratorium’s shortcomings, Rabe said. To qualify, tenants must make a self-declaration that they are eligible, but most tenants in financial crises do not know about this requirement.
The moratorium also contains vague language and little enforcement direction for Idahoans, so it is up to judges and landlords to decide whether the tenant’s self-declarations should be upheld, a press release from Jesse Tree said.
“Some landlords and judges require tenants to provide evidence to prove their self-declaration, and a landlord or their attorney need only challenge a self-declaration in court for it to be dismissed,” Rabe said in a statement.
Rabe argues, as she did in September, that the moratorium does not get to the root of the problem when it comes to renters struggling during the pandemic, which is rent is still due.
Idaho did allot $15 million in CARES Act funding for rental assistance, but it ended last week. Jesse Tree is calling on the state and federal government to do more to help tenants who have fallen behind on rent.
The federal moratorium ends Dec. 31, at which point, Rabe said, the state will truly know its impact.
“This fund and the federal moratorium have kept some evictions at bay, but many vulnerable renters and their landlords, did not benefit,” Rabe said.
What does the order do?
The CDC's order prohibits property owners from evicting covered tenants from any residential property because of nonpayment of rent before Dec. 31. It does not apply to any evictions that might be brought on grounds other than nonpayment, such as nuisance or alleged criminal activity.
It requires tenants to sign and submit a declaration to the landlord certifying under penalty that they qualify for protection under the moratorium. It does not relieve tenants from the obligation to pay rent — all of it comes due on Jan. 1, 2021 — and it allows landlords to continue to charge late fees and other penalties as permitted by law.
Who is eligible?
To be eligible for protection, renters must earn $198,000 or less for couples filing jointly, or $99,000 for single filers; demonstrate that they’ve sought government help to pay the rent; declare that they can’t pay because of COVID-19 hardships; and affirm they are likely to become homeless if evicted.
Source: The Associated Press; Katy Ramsey Mason, assistant professor of law and director of the University of Memphis Medical-Legal Partnership Clinic, via The Conversation, an independent, nonprofit source of news and commentary.
Rachel Spacek is the Latino Affairs and Canyon County reporter for the Idaho Press. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on twitter @RachelSpacek.
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