The Tennessee Supreme Court recently extended the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eviction moratorium through Dec. 31.

CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield signed a declaration Sept. 2 “determining that the evictions of tenants could be detrimental to public health control measures to slow the spread of (the virus) that causes COVID-19.”

“This is a federal form, not one that the Tennessee Supreme Court or the (state Administrative Office of the Courts) has created,” Supreme Court General Counsel Rachel Harmon wrote in an email to court clerks across the state.

Court clerks have the discretion to make the forms available. Greene County Circuit Court Clerk Chis Shepard has done so.

A declaration form is available at the Greene County Circuit Court Clerk’s Office at the county courthouse, 101 S. Main St.

CDC’s Eviction Moratorium Declaration Form is also available at this link:

The moratorium on actions by judges, court clerks, and other court officials to allow eviction/detainer warrants and garnishments to move forward was lifted on July 1 by state Supreme Court order, but reinstated Sept. 2 through the end of 2020.

MANY PENDING CASES

The halt in evictions was put in place in the early months of the pandemic, and bought tenants additional time to come up with financial resources they needed. When the moratorium was lifted in Tennessee, about 9,000 eviction cases were pending in local courts, according to the state Supreme Court.

Shelby County General Sessions Civil Court Judge Betty Thomas Moore presides over many eviction cases in her courtroom.

She said in a Supreme Court news release many of those she sees in court facing eviction are “just everyday working people” who suddenly find themselves in a precarious financial situation.

“They never thought it would happen to them,” she said. “They’ve got a pile of bills that have to be paid. They may have four or five children and don’t have any other place to go.”

In the context of a pandemic, an eviction moratorium, like quarantine, isolation, and social distancing, “can be an effective public health measure utilized to prevent the spread of communicable disease,” according to the CDC. The moratorium also helps encourage self-isolation by those who become ill or who are at risk for severe illness from COVID-19 due to an underlying medical condition.

It also allows state and local authorities “to more easily implement stay-at-home and social distancing directives to mitigate the community spread of COVID-19,” the CDC states.

“Furthermore, housing stability helps protect public health because homelessness increases the likelihood of individuals moving into congregate settings, such as homeless shelters, which then puts individuals at higher risk to COVID-19,” the CDC adds.

Unsheltered homelessness “also increases the risk that individuals will experience severe illness from COVID-19,” according to the CDC.

The CDC’s declaration is for tenants, lessees or residents of residential properties covered by the CDC’s order temporarily halting residential evictions to prevent the further spread of the virus.

The CDC order states that a copy of the declaration must be provided to the landlord, owner of the residential property, or other person who has a right to evict or remove an individual from where he or she lives.

Unless the CDC order is extended, changed or ended, the order prevents tenants from being evicted or removed from where they live through Dec. 31.

“You are still required to pay rent and follow all the other terms of your ease and rules of the place where you live,” the CDC states.

Evictions can still happen “for reasons other than not paying rent or making a housing payment,” the CDC states.

CERTIFICATION REQUIREMENTS

Individuals filling out the declaration form also must certify they:

  • have used best efforts to obtain all available government assistance for rent or housing;
  • do not expect to earn more than $99,000 in annual income for the calendar year 2020, or no more than $198,000 if filing a joint tax return; were not required to report any income in 2019 to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service; or received a stimulus check through the CARES Act;
  • are unable to pay the full rent amount or a full housing payment “due to substantial loss of household income, loss of compensable hours of work or wages, lay-offs, or extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses”;
  • are using “best efforts to make timely partial payments that are as close to the full payment as an individual’s ciircumstances may permit,” taking into account other non-discretionary expenses;
  • if evicted would likely become homeless, need to move into a homeless shelter, or need to move into a new residence shared by other people who live in close quarters because they have no other available housing options;
  • understand they must still pay rent or make a housing payment, and c

omply with other obligations under the tenancy, lease agreement, or similar contract; “and further understand that fees, penalties, or interest for not paying rent or making a housing payment on time as required by my tenancy, lease agreement, or similar contract may still

  • be charged or collected”;
  • understand that at the end of this temporary halt on evictions on Dec. 31, the housing provider may require payment in full for all payments not made prior to and during the temporary halt, and failure to pay may make a tenant “subject to eviction pursuant to state and local laws.”

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