HUD Clarifies Penalties for Violating Eviction Moratorium

HUD’s Office of Multifamily Housing recently updated its Questions & Answers document for COVID-19 to include information about the latest CDC eviction moratorium extension that was issued on Aug. 3 and intended to run until Oct. 3 for counties with heightened levels of community transmission.

The bottom line: HUD updated the Q&A with one question: "What are the penalties for a landlord, owner of a residential property, or other person with a legal right to pursue an eviction or a possessory action violating the CDC Order?"

The answer refers housing providers to the CDC’s Order and the Declaration form itself. The Declaration form includes this language: “If your landlord violates the CDC order, they could be subject to criminal penalties, including fines or a term of imprisonment.”

The actual CDC Order offers more details. It states that persons violating the Order "may be subject to a fine of no more than $100,000 or one year in jail, or both, if the violation does not result in a death, or a fine of no more than $250,000 or one year in jail, or both, if the violation results in a death, or as otherwise provided by law. An organization violating the Order may be subject to a fine of no more than $200,000 per event if the violation does not result in a death or $500,000 per event if the violation results in a death. The Order also states that the U.S. Department of Justice may initiate criminal proceedings as appropriate seeking imposition of these criminal penalties."

What to watch: The battle over the legality of the CDC Order is currently being played out in the courts. A coalition of landlords and real estate trade groups in Alabama and Georgia has challenged the latest moratorium. “Congress never gave the CDC the staggering amount of power it claims,” the groups said in a brief filed recently with the Supreme Court, asking them to block the latest version of the moratorium.

In response, the Biden administration urged the Supreme Court to leave in place a moratorium on evictions in parts of the country affected by the coronavirus pandemic, saying it is a “lawful and urgently needed response to an unprecedented public emergency.”