With a federal eviction moratorium expiring, and the State’s emergency declaration phasing out, programs to forestall evictions are on their way out – what’s next for Maryland? (Tuesday twist: the CDC’s action moves this question down the road for most MD jurisdictions, most likely)
Among multiple policy provisions enacted during the COVID-19 pandemic, special accommodations for renters without income to make payments have prevented a major wave of tenant evictions. A federal provision, widely referenced as a “moratorium” but in practice creating substantial process requirements, has expired as of August 1. State provisions, extending these protections, were attached to the statewide declaration of a public health emergency, which will fully phase out by August 15. In essence, signs point to an August 15 return to “normal laws” with respect to landlord/tenant relationships… with some local governments continuing their own programs locally, many employing federal ARPA funds to do so.
Associated Press coverage illustrates the looming effects in some states that, unlike Maryland, did not add extra protections beyond the federal provisions – and the series of evictions filed in their courts:
More than 15 million people live in households that owe as much as $20 billion to their landlords, according to the Aspen Institute. As of July 5, roughly 3.6 million people in the U.S. said they faced eviction in the next two months, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey.
The Federal Issue
The federal provisions deferring non-payment evictions expired at the end of July, amidst a perplexing flurry of uncertainty over legal authority to act. In the end, the Congress failed to extend these provisions, and the Executive Agencies (such as the CDC) were guided by court holdings that they lacked the authority to do so via rule-making or other purely executive action.
See coverage on the NPR website: Without The CDC’s Eviction Ban, Millions Could Quickly Lose Their Homes
As of this writing, it appears that the federal protections have fully expired – leaving each State as a potential actor to fill in for their absence. (Note: see the last section of this article for the August 3 follow-up, after the CDC took extraordinary action after our initial publication)
The State Decision
Maryland, as part of its statewide public health emergency, had reinforced and extended eviction prevention rules. During the 2021 legisaltive session, MACo supported legislation designed to clarify and extend these provisions, but that legislation ultimately failed. See Conduit Street coverage: County Leaders: State Needs To Prevent Eviction Wave
More recently, Governor Hogan reinforced that the State’s decision to rescind the public health emergency was unchanged, meaning statewide provisions affecting the courts and landlord/tenant matters would expire on August 15, following the 45-day phase-out period.
The Local Landscape
Multiple counties have created programs either to assist landlords maintain income (potentially with a condition that they not pursue evictions) or to augment tenant payments, in efforts to stave off evictions brought about by the pandemic and its economic disruptions. See prior Conduit Street coverage: New Tenant Protections Take Effect in Baltimore
Maryland Legislative Briefing
The House of Delegates held a briefing covering these matters, including a number of local governments, on July 27. The video of the meeting is available on the General Assembly’s YouTube site.
Chief Judge Morrisey of the Maryland District Courts expressed his opinion that “I don’t agree there will be a tsunami of [eviction] cases” as part of his introductory comments during the Committee’s discussion, following a review of multiple measures taken by the courts, and a number of dismissed cases already.
Tuesday’s CDC Action
In a reversal of its prior assessment, the federal CDC issued a new eviction moratorium Tuesday (August 3), deferring landlord action citing the continuing health pandemic and worrisome health effects of tenant displacement. Its effect is limited to areas of specific increase in COVID caseloads, currently including 14 Maryland counties. Supporters cheered the likely stay of the much-feared “tsunami of eviction cases,” while critics suggested that the move may prove only temporary as it likely exceeds the executive branch’s legal authority and will surely be subject to rapid legal challenge.
So, the current answer to our titular question of “Where are We?” is probably now: waiting a few weeks to renew this debate again, and to watching for Congressional action in the meantime.