By Laura Lee, originally published by Carolina Public Press. Carolina Public Press is an independent, in-depth and investigative nonprofit news service for North Carolina.
On Aug. 3, the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ordered a 60-day renewed nationwide eviction moratorium, offering possible relief for North Carolinians having difficulty paying rent because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As the CDC national evictions moratorium lapses, and President Biden put in place new protections last night, I know it’s been an anxious time for many North Carolinians who are struggling to pay rent and utilities,” Gov. Roy Cooper said at a press conference Aug. 4.
In addition to the federal moratorium, tenants may also seek rent assistance through an expanded state program.
“There’s a ton of rental assistance money out there that has been moving slower than a lot of people that have liked, and I think the hope of the government is to try to extend the moratorium to allow people to stay in place and give enough time for the rest of their assistance to be distributed,” said Isaac Sturgill, head of Legal Aid of North Carolina’s housing practice group.
Tenants may seek protection under the CDC order or may apply for rental assistance through the state’s HOPE program. Find answers to questions about both options:
CDC eviction moratorium
Who is eligible?
Under the new CDC order, a renter who meets the following conditions is eligible for the moratorium:
- Has an annual income of $99,000 or less for an individual or $198,000 or less for joint filers.
- Has used best efforts to obtain government assistance for rent or housing.
- Has lost income (may be hours or wages) or has extraordinary medical expenses.
- Is using best efforts to make partial payments on time that are as close to full payments as circumstances allow.
- For whom eviction would likely make the person homeless or forced to move into a shared or congregate living situation.
- Lives in a county with “substantial” or “high” levels of community transmission of COVID-19.
How does this moratorium differ from prior orders?
The coverage area is narrower than previous orders, Sturgill said. Under prior orders, tenants needed to meet five of the six requirements above. Now, tenants must meet all the prior requirements and live in areas with “substantial” or “high” levels of community transmission to qualify.
Which North Carolina counties currently have “substantial” or “high” levels of community transmission of COVID-19?
Ninety-six of the state’s 100 counties have “substantial” or “high” levels of community transmission as of Aug. 3.
At present, the order does not apply to Bertie, Hertford, Hyde or Warren counties, according to Sturgill.
Is the moratorium automatic if I qualify?
No. Tenants who believe they qualify must complete the CDC declaration form and present it to their landlord.
What if I signed a declaration and gave it to my landlord earlier? Do I need a new one?
No. “If a tenant has previously signed a declaration and given it to their landlord, they don’t need to do a new one,” Sturgill said.
If I am a landlord, does this order prevent me from evicting any and all tenants?
No. Landlords are still permitted to evict tenants in certain circumstances. “Evictions, for example, for criminal activity of threatening behavior, property destruction, or violation of health safety codes, or breaches of the lease other than nonpayment … can still move forward,” Sturgill said.
Can my landlord still file an eviction claim against me?
Yes. “This moratorium is not going to stop the filing of cases necessarily,” Sturgill said. “It just says for the tenants that are covered, the landlord cannot go through the actual lockout, the actual eviction itself, if the tenant is protected.”
What if my county was one of the four that did not initially qualify but later has “substantial” or “high” community transmission levels?
If a county that does not currently qualify becomes eligible, residents may then apply for the moratorium. If a county currently qualified reaches levels below “substantial” or “high” for 14 consecutive days, then the order will no longer apply.
What if my landlord has already filed an eviction? What if there is a judgment but I have not yet been removed?
“For people that have been filed on and still have a court date pending, this may help them stop the process,” Sturgill said. “Even for people that have already had a judgment entered against them but the lockout has not occurred yet, those people would fall within the scope of this order.”
If I use the CDC moratorium, when will it end?
The order is set to expire on Sunday, Oct. 3.
What is the HOPE Program?
The Housing Opportunities and Prevention of Evictions Program began in October 2020 to address financial challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The program offers funds to help North Carolinian renters and is funded by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Community Development Block Grant−Coronavirus funds and U.S. Department of Treasury Coronavirus Relief funds, according to a press release from the governor’s office.
Who is eligible for HOPE funds?
Applicants must have “a household income that is less than or equal to 80% of the area median income for the county where they live,” according to the program’s website.
Applicants must also be a resident of one of the 88 counties served by HOPE.
What if I do not live in one of the 88 counties served by the program?
Residents of the 12 counties not served by the program are eligible to apply for local rental assistance and utility assistance programs, said Laura Hogshead, chief operating officer the N.C. Office of Recovery and Resilience.
In addition, five tribal governments in the state (Eastern Band of the
Cherokee Indians, Coharie Tribe, Haliwa-Saponi Tribe, Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina and Waccamaw-Siouan Tribe) are offering assistance separate from the HOPE program.
How much assistance can I receive through HOPE?
“Eligible applicants may receive up to 12 months of rent assistance, which may include up to nine months of past-due rent,” according to the program website.
What is the maximum amount of rent that will be paid by the program?
The maximum amount of rent is the fair-market rent for a two-bedroom unit in your county. Applicants can determine the fair-market rent using the online HUD Fair Market Rent Documentation System.
The allowable amount increased since the program was announced. “The monthly rent award limit has increased by 30% and the utility award limit has increased by 100% for all new applications as of Aug. 1,” Hogshead said.
How do I get the funds?
Funds for rent are paid directly to the landlord, and utility assistance is paid directly to the utility provider.
Does acceptance in the program keep my landlord from evicting me?
“Landlords that accept this phase of HOPE funds agree to not evict the applicant for nonpayment of rent during the period of assistance and for at least 60 days after that period ends,” according to the website.
How do I apply for HOPE program?
Applications are available through the website hope.nc.gov or by calling 888-9-ASK-HOPE.
Once I apply for HOPE funds, how long will it take?
“The turnaround time from application to payment is typically 14 to 18 days, so assistance for renters and landlords will come quickly,” Hogshead said.
I am already behind on rent. Can I still apply?
Yes. Funds are available for up to nine months of past-due rent.
Can I apply for utility assistance?
Yes, if you qualify for rental assistance.
Utility assistance is available for the following:
- Electricity: up to $510.
- Natural gas, propane or heating oil: up to $135.
- Water: up to $105.
- Wastewater: up to $120.
Applications for utility-only assistance are not accepted.
I applied in the first round. Can I apply again?
Yes, but rent assistance provided during the first phase of the HOPE Program counts toward the nine months of past-due rent assistance that an applicant can receive.
I am a landlord, and my tenant is unable to pay rent. What can I do?
The HOPE program recently added a feature to allow landlords to refer tenants. A program representative will reach out to the tenant about applying.
How much money has the program distributed?
“Since the HOPE program opened last fall, more than $328 million has been awarded to help North Carolina families and over $234 million have already been paid to landlords and utility providers statewide,” Gov. Cooper said.