With time running out on the eviction moratorium imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Congress approved, and the President signed into law on December 27, 2020, an extension of the CDC’s moratorium through January 31, 2021.
The new law did not change the requirement for tenants to provide a declaration to their landlord under penalty of perjury that they meet the criteria for invoking the protection of the CDC’s order. However, anyone wishing to invoke that protection under the new law should update the declaration to indicate that it extends through January 31, 2021 instead of December 31, 2020.
Also included in the legislative package was an additional $25 billion for rental assistance. It remains to be seen whether that assistance will be up and running in time to help people who are protected under the moratorium only until January 31st. There is concern that the funds will not be available in only one month.
The National Low-Income Housing Coalition estimates that South Carolina counties and localities will receive $342,731,000.
The funds are available only for low-income tenants. This means tenants at or below 80% of the Area Median Income, with a priority for households at or below 50% AMI. Eligible households also need to be receiving unemployment benefits or have experienced a COVID-19-related hardship (loss of income, significant expenses, etc.). And finally, an eligible household must demonstrate a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability.
The maximum assistance period is 12 months, with an additional 3-month extension, subject to availability of funds, if necessary to ensure housing stability. Also, three months of prospective rent payments can be paid in addition to past due payments. Households that need more than three months of prospective rent payments can re-apply and receive additional assistance if funds are available.
Another innovation in the new law is that it allows landlords to apply for rental assistance on a tenant’s behalf. The landlord must get the tenant’s signature on the rental assistance application, must provide documentation of the rental assistance application to the tenant and must actually apply the funds to the tenant’s rent owed.