• 03/27/2020 – 1:45 PM
  • Dear Landlords and Property Managers,
  • As you may be aware, recent actions by our County Superior Court, our Governor, and our Mayor have left us with overlapping defacto and actual moratoriums on the eviction of tenants.  We have an odd situation where differing rules and expiration dates apply.  The Governor’s moratorium ends on April 17th, the Superior Court’s hold on eviction activity ends on April 27th, and the Mayor’s moratorium ends on April 30th. It’s possible that any or all of these suspensions may be extended. 
  • In the meantime, it may be prudent for you to take the initiative and communicate with each of your tenants prior to the rent due date to ascertain their ability to pay rent.  You may remind tenants that their obligations to pay rent continue unchanged, but you may not issue or act on a notice of default or take any action to evict in the event of non-payment or other non-compliance. You may not issue a 20-day notice to vacate. Late fees or interest on past due rent may not accrue for the duration of the Mayor’s moratorium.
  • You also may not, during the Mayor’s moratorium, require a tenant to vacate at the expiration of a lease. This complicates things a little. Under current law, if a lease has expired, and you accept rent for the month beyond the lease term, that would automatically create a month-to-month agreement. To avoid this but still accept rent, if offered, you must renew the lease for a mutually acceptable period. If rent is not offered by the tenant, there’s no need for you to issue any new paperwork at this time.
  • You may only issue or act on a notice of termination if a tenant’s actions constitute an imminent threat of damage to the property or to the safety of individuals. The Governor’s order requires that landlords provide an affidavit confirming those threatening actions. The Mayor’s order requires that those threatening actions be proven.
  • With regard to the Governor’s eviction moratorium, the penalties for willful violations are severe.  A landlord found in willful violation could face a gross misdemeanor charge, which may incur up to $5,000 in fines and/or up-to 364 days in jail.
  • It’s our understanding that the Governor’s list of essential workers includes residential maintenance personnel. If a tenant submits a request for crucial facility maintenance or repair (stove or fridge failure, blocked toilet, etc.) you should comply accordingly.  However, you should require that your employees or third-party maintenance personnel have and use adequate PPE (personal protection equipment) and remind them to exercise social distancing while in rental units.
  • Copies and details of each moratorium and of the County Court’s suspension of eviction activity may be found on the LLA’s website. Should you have questions that our office staff cannot answer, please contact one of our associate attorneys.
  • From conversations with various officials, our impression is that once this emergency has passed, landlords may be ordered to accept any delinquent rent in installments.
  • The Federal Government is motivated to issue direct assistance payments as quickly as possible. The latest reports suggest that payment checks will be mailed out starting in mid-April. However, as with various other aspects of this evolving crisis, this too may change.
  • Some landlords are still struggling to understand and comply with the requirements of Senate Bill 5600 that became law last year. That Bill was further strengthened this year with the passage of Senate Bill 6378.  These are trying times, and it becomes ever more easy to run afoul of landlord/tenant law. Be extra cautious in what you say to or demand of your tenants. Encourage your employees and representatives to pay extra attention to official proclamations and, as far as possible, be aware of changing circumstances.
  • Current events are unprecedented in our lifetimes, but if we remain patient and work with our tenants and with each other, we’ll get through this.
  • Given the fluid nature of this emergency, we’ll issue relevant updates on developments as they evolve.
  • Best regards,
  • Steve Corker and your Board of Directors
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