Q: I manage two rental properties for my parents. One is currently available for rent. Under the current eviction moratorium, could a renter sign a rental contract, move in, and then immediately stop paying? Is it possible or legal to add language to the agreement banning this?
Answer: "Clearly, COVID-19 has affected many areas of the law and its administration," said Lawson Newton, a local attorney who specializes in real estate matters. "One of the most prominent alterations was the initial ban on evictions in North Carolina."
That ban has now been lifted, Newton said, but could certainly be imposed again if conditions warrant. Landlords need to also be aware of the newest "ban" on evictions imposed by the Department of Health and Human Services through the Centers for Disease Control, an "emergency action" which is effective until Dec. 31.
"Under this 'emergency action,'" Newton said in an email response to SAM, "if a tenant provides a landlord with a 'Renter's Declaration,' which is an affidavit given by the tenant under penalty of perjury, the tenant may be able to avoid eviction proceedings."
The affidavit of the tenant must assert that the tenant meets all five of the following conditions:
- They have made best efforts to obtain all available government assistance for rental housing.
- They either earn less than $99,000 per year ($198,000 joint filing) or did not have to file an income tax return for 2019 or received a stimulus check this year.
- They have experienced financial loss due to Covid-19.
- They are making best efforts to pay.
- And eviction would render the tenant homeless.
"This is a complex document and space limits the capability to adequately explain it all in detail," Newton said. "Needless to say, there is a new potential 'safe haven' for tenants in effect. Note that the tenant must submit the affidavit to the landlord, and the landlord is under no legal obligation to provide this information to the tenant."
As to your inquiry about payments being stopped by the tenant immediately after signing a lease, "no provision in the lease agreement about that type action by the tenant will be enforced, in my opinion," Newton said. "However, the tenant might not be able to avail themselves of the CDC protections if this is brought to light. In summary, landlords may now proceed to evict a tenant for cause but need to be aware of the protections provided by the new CDC action. And landlords may not include language in the lease to attempt to circumvent those protections or others provided by state or federal laws."
Q: When will the yellow tape be removed from the new playground at C.G. Hill Memorial Park in Pfafftown so the little ones can play on it?
Answer: The playground is now open, according to a spokeswoman at Forsyth County Parks & Recreation. There is still some tape around the perimeter to keep people away from muddy areas, she said. You may have seen that tape still up and assumed it meant the entire playground area was still closed, but that is not the case. They ask that patrons socially distance if they can, and wear masks when that is not possible.
Ask SAM, 418 N. Marshall St., Winston-Salem, NC 27101
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