President Biden extends eviction moratorium until March 31: What renters should know

Just hours after his inauguration, President Joe Biden issued an executive order extending eviction protections for the country’s 44 million rental households until March 31. The newly appointed director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, later confirmed that the eviction moratorium, which originated with the CDC, has been extended. Biden has also asked Congress to set aside $30 billion to help the more than 10 million households who were behind on rent last month by passing his $1.9 trillion stimulus package, unveiled earlier in the month. (The proposal would also fund more federal unemployment insurance and a third stimulus check.) That bill if passed would extend the eviction moratorium through September.

Over 107 million people — or about one-third of the US population — live in rental households, most of which have been protected by some form of an eviction moratorium since Congress passed the initial CARES Act back in March. The current order, which Congress extended in December, had been set to expire Jan. 31. It established a $25 billion rent relief fund but imposed income limits in order to qualify, with priority going to the lowest-earning households as well as those in which someone is currently unemployed.

Altogether, current eviction protections combine various elements taken from these laws and government orders, which means navigating it all can get a little confusing. Adding to the difficulty, some local jurisdictions have continued with evictions despite the nationwide ban. A January report (PDF) by the Jobs with Justice Education Fund traces $320 million in federal pandemic assistance to 197 corporate landlords who collectively filed 5,381 evictions between March and October.

The current eviction ban requires renters who’ve fallen behind on their rent to submit a signed declaration form to their landlord stating they’ve lost income due to the coronavirus pandemic and have made an effort to look for financial assistance, as well as a few other conditions. (This part is critical, more below.) We’ll unpack the national eviction moratorium to explain who is covered, what might not be covered and what you need to do now if you’re worried about getting evicted. In addition, we’ll look at other resources and options that are available to help you stay in your home, along with Biden’s American Rescue Plan proposal.

Who qualifies for financial assistance under the current law?

The stimulus bill Congress passed at the end of 2020 set aside $25 billion to be allocated to states ($400 million of that will go to territories and $800 million to native communities). To be considered for assistance drawn from those funds, renter households must meet three qualifications:

-Household income must not exceed 80% of the median income for the area in which you live.
-Must include at least one member who can demonstrate a risk of becoming homeless without assistance.
-Must include at least one household member who either qualifies for unemployment benefits or has experienced financial hardship due either directly or indirectly to the coronavirus pandemic.

Priority will be given to the most financially insecure among those households. That means the first households to receive aid should include:

-Households whose income does not exceed 50% of the area median income.
-Households with members who are currently unemployed and have been unemployed for 90 days or more.

Money received through this program is nontaxable.

What did the original national eviction ban cover?

The CDC instituted a national eviction moratorium by leveraging a 1944 public health law intended to curb the spread of a pandemic. Because homelessness can increase the spread of COVID-19, the order halts evictions across the US for anyone who has lost income due to the pandemic and has fallen behind on rent.

The federal mandate didn’t prohibit late fees (although some local ordinances do), nor did it let tenants off the hook for any back rent they owe. It also didn’t establish any kind of financial assistance fund to help renters get caught up — a safeguard some say is critical to preventing a massive wave of evictions when the ban eventually lifts. (Many cities and states, however, have set aside money to help with rent — keep reading for how to find assistance where you live.)

The order only halted evictions for not paying rent. Lease violations for other infractions — criminal conduct, becoming a nuisance and so on — are still enforceable with eviction. And it only protects renters who earn less than $99,000 per year or $198,000 for joint filers. Finally, renters had to print and sign an affidavit declaring their eligibility for protections (the next section breaks down those requirements).
What to do if you’re facing financial hardship today

If you’re in need of immediate shelter or emergency housing, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development maintains a state-by-state list of housing organizations in your area. Select your state from the drop-down menu for a list of resources near you.

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, many states and cities have expanded their available financial assistance for those who are struggling to pay rent. To see what programs might be available near you, find your state on this list of rent relief programs maintained by the National Low Income Housing Association.

Nonprofit connects those in need of help with essential community services in their area and has a specific portal for pandemic assistance. If you’re having trouble with your food budget or paying your housing bills, you can use’s online search tool or dial 211 on your phone to talk to someone who can try to help. is a nonprofit that puts tenants facing eviction in touch with local organizations that can help them to remain in their homes or, in worst-case scenarios, find emergency housing.

The online legal services chatbot at has a coronavirus financial relief tool that it says will identify which of the laws, ordinances and measures covering rent and evictions apply to you based on your location.

If you’re seriously delinquent or know you will be soon, you may want to consult a lawyer to better understand how laws in your area apply to your situation. Legal Aid provides attorneys free of charge to qualified clients who need help with civil matters such as evictions. You can locate the nearest Legal Aid office using this search tool.

If you can no longer afford rent on your current home, relocation might be an option. Average rental prices have declined across the US since February, according to an August report by Zillow. Apps like Zillow, Trulia and Zumper can help you find something more affordable. Just be aware that you may still be held responsible for any back rent you currently owe as well as any rent that accrues between now and the end of your lease (if you have one), whether or not you vacate.

Try asking your landlord for a rent reduction or extension

In almost all instances it’s probably best to work out an arrangement with your landlord or leasing agency, if at all possible. Although some landlords have reportedly reacted to the pandemic by putting even more pressure on tenants to pay up, other landlords have risen to the occasion, some going so far as to stop collecting rent payments for a period of time.

It may be worth approaching your landlord to see if you can pay less rent in the coming months, or spread payments for the next couple of months’ rent out over the next year. Just be wary of landlords who make excessive demands. For example, some have asked tenants to turn over their $1,200 stimulus check or any money received from charity as a condition for not filing an eviction order. Don’t agree to unreasonable conditions or terms you won’t be able to meet, especially if your city or state has enacted protections against such arrangements.

From Dale Smith & Clifford Colby, for CNET