Photo of household belongings--couches TVs etc--after an eviction.
Photo of household belongings after an eviction. Photo courtesy of Montecruz Foto/Flickr

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Jan. 20 extended the nationwide eviction moratorium, set to expire on Jan. 31, through at least March 31, in response to the continuing COVID-19 crisis and a direct request by President Joe Biden. 

The extension comes as one in five renters in the United States has fallen behind on rent paymentsaccording to the Center for Budget and Policy PrioritiesIn Washington, D.C., the total number of at-risk renters is between 118,000 and 131,000, according to the Aspen InstituteEviction threatens to “substantially contribute to COVID-19 transmission, the CDC said in its public health order. 

“We must act to get cases down and keep people in their homes and out of congregate settings — like shelters — where COVID-19 can take an even stronger foothold, said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky in a statementThe order argues that by pushing former tenants into living with friends and family or in homeless shelters, eviction elevates public and personal health risks related to COVID-19 transmission. 

[Read more: DC attorney general sues to uphold ban on filing eviction complaints during pandemic]

Notably, however, the CDC’s order remains limited in scope and protects only those who, among other conditions, have been impacted financially by the pandemic, earn less than $99,000 on an individual basis, and are facing eviction solely for nonpayment of rent. The moratorium does not aim to prevent rent collection outside of these circumstances, and its narrow applicability means that landlords can continue to pursue eviction claims against tenants for myriad other causes related to alleged criminal, public health, or contractual violations, as many housing advocates have been quick to point out.  

In a letter, more than 2,000 national, state, and local nonprofit organizationschurches, private companies, and elected officials urged the Biden administration to strengthen the moratorium and require landlords to affirmatively notify tenants of its protections. “Corporate and other landlords continue to evict renters before renters know about the moratorium protections or by finding reasons for eviction other than nonpayment of rent, the letter reads.  

The administration does not appear to have responded publicly, but it has called upon Congress to further extend the moratorium and to provide additional rental assistance to those in need.