While 2020 was a year of unexpected change and adjusting on the fly, 2021 has required longer term solutions. This has proven true for many industries, including real estate management.
One of the most pressing issues throughout 2021 was the Center for Disease Control’s eviction moratorium. The moratorium was first implemented by President Donald Trump in 2020 and was extended several times by both Trump and President Joe Biden. IREM and its coalition partners continued to advocate for an end to the moratorium that would be workable for all stakeholders. By midsummer, there finally appeared to be an end in sight, as the moratorium’s extension was set to expire at the end of July.
The courts weigh in
The U.S. Supreme Court heard a case regarding the legality of the executive order in June 2021, and while it did not put an end to the order, a majority of the Court agreed that the CDC lacked the authority to enact an eviction moratorium. Four justices wanted to end it immediately, while a fifth justice stated explicitly that the CDC had exceeded its authority but allowed the ban to stay in effect for a few more weeks to promote an orderly transition and provide more time for rental assistance distribution.
This lead many to believe the order would be allowed to expire on July 31, however on August 3, the CDC announced that it was extending the moratorium through October 3. When October 4 came, the Alabama and Georgia Associations of REALTORS® filed for an emergency motion the next day asking the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to enforce the U.S. Supreme Court’s order, which stated that the CDC could not extend the moratorium beyond July 31. Finally, the CDC’s eviction moratorium came to an end on August 26 as the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 against the order.
In their order, the justices wrote, “The moratorium has put the applicants, along with millions of landlords across the country, at risk of irreparable harm by depriving them of rent payments with no guarantee of eventual recovery. Despite the CDC’s determination that landlords should bear a significant financial cost of the pandemic, many landlords have modest means.”
The focus of IREM’s Government Affairs team is now on the swift and full implementation of rental assistance as we aim to regain stability and normalcy in America’s housing market. From the beginning of the moratorium, IREM has worked with legislators and White House staff to find a solution that protects both tenants and housing providers. We believe rental assistance is vital to keeping tenants in their homes as well as ensuring that property owners are able to make ends meet. IREM has always maintained that the best solution for all parties whose housing was impacted by COVID-19 was rental assistance to cover the rent, taxes, and utility bills for tenants struggling during the pandemic. This prevents two crises—one for tenants owing rent, and another for mom-and-pop housing providers without any available reprieve from their own bills.
To help mitigate some of the effects on our members and their businesses, IREM and other industry organizations have been unwavering in advocating for support and relief for the real estate industry. IREM and our coalition partners have sent over forty letters to members of Congress, White House staff, and various regulatory agencies and have participated in several dozen meetings. In addition to the efforts from the Government Affairs team, IREM members have stepped up in record numbers to engage with their legislators by directly emailing them or by holding virtual meetings. Throughout 2020 and 2021, over 1,200 members have sent their legislators and governors more than 4,000 emails urging them to end the eviction moratorium and support COVID-19 relief that would provide rental assistance.
In September of this year, the House Financial Services Committee held a markup hearing in which it marked up several bills, including H.R. 5196, “Expediting Assistance to Renters and Landlords Act of 2021,” sponsored by Committee Chair Maxine Waters (D-CA).
IREM, as part of a coalition of housing providers, sent an open letter to the Committee with comments on the markup. While the coalition supports efforts to improve and speed up Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) funding disbursement, it disagreed with a requirement in the bill that housing providers not evict a tenant for an additional 120 days after applying for rental assistance on their behalf. One of the main issues with imposing this requirement is that the eviction prohibition goes into effect upon application for assistance, not disbursement of funds. If the request is delayed or even denied, the tenant is still unable to be evicted for 120 days, further exacerbating income losses for these property owners.
The coalition has consistently provided recommendations to both Congress and the Administration for improvements to ERAP disbursement and has also maintained that policies which attach additional conditions for housing providers who participate in the program will have the opposite of the intended effect and actually lead to lower participation rates.
As of October 2021, H.R. 5196 had seen movement since reporting out of committee and it was not expected to find wide support. We will continue to work alongside our coalition partners and Congress to find solutions that work for both property owners as well as their tenants.
To help IREM members stay up to date on critical legislation and engage with their officials, we are rolling out a new Advocacy Action Center. Everyone is encouraged to sign up for alerts from the action center by texting “IREM” to 50457.
Advocacy Impact Day
Looking ahead to next year, IREM will continue to monitor the development of these issues and work together with our coalition partners and lawmakers to promote equitable solutions that support stability for renters and landlords alike.