States figuring out how to implement CDC eviction moratorium order

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recipe

States figuring out how to implement CDC eviction moratorium order

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last month issued an order to halt most evictions through the end of the year in order to curb the spread of COVID-19 by keeping evicted people from becoming homeless or crowding into apartments with friends and relatives.

The order protects tenants who have already sought government help, are unable to pay their rent because of a sizable loss of income, are trying to make timely, partial rent payments, and would become homeless if they were evicted.

Across the country, judges and court administrators are responding differently to the order, and it has caused judges in many states to ask state court leaders to provide clarity so judges can find the best way to apply the order.

Danielle Hirsch, an NCSC principal court management consultant who is monitoring how states are implementing the CDC order, said courts must strive to ensure consistent and uniform application of the law.

“Given the pressing and serious nature of the eviction crisis facing the country,” Hirsch said, “court systems should promulgate court orders, education and training, self-help resources, and procedures to assist with handling eviction filings in accordance with the CDC order.”

NCSC has devised a five-step “recipe” to help states implement the order.

  • Supplement the CDC order with a state or local order. The order can include changes to pleading and summons requirements, amendments to eviction forms, and instructions regarding the declaration forms that the CDC order requires tenants to submit. Orders that may be considered models come from the Texas Supreme Court and Rhode Island District Court.
  • Devise a plan to educate judges and other court employees about the CDC order.
  • Communicate with landlords and tenants about the order. Alaska and Utah, for example, have done a good job of providing information to tenants who are not represented by lawyers.
  • Reach out to lawyers and other stakeholders. Massachusetts, Tennessee and Texas have held large stakeholder meetings to address this issue.
  • Set up eviction diversion programs. This is happening in many places nationwide, such as Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Washington state and Kentucky.

For more information about the CDC order, Hirsch and fellow NCSC consultant Zach Zarnow recently interviewed Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht about it. And the Pandemic Rapid Response Team in September hosted a webinar on the CDC order that focused on what’s happening in Michigan and the Circuit Court of Cook County (Ill.).

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