Advocates from the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio are advising tenants facing eviction to act immediately to get protection under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new eviction moratorium.

The CDC recently issued the first ever nationwide order temporarily banning the eviction of tenants who are unable to pay rent in order to help prevent the spread of coronavirus, a news release this week from COHHIO said. While the moratorium applies to many cases where people have fallen behind on their rent payments, tenants must follow specific steps in order to qualify, it emphasized.

“This so-called moratorium is not automatic. Tenants need to submit a declaration demonstrating that they are eligible for the moratorium to cover them,” said COHHIO Executive Director Bill Faith. “If you’re behind on rent, don’t wait. See if local emergency rental assistance is available in your community, and file a declaration to make sure you don’t get evicted during this public health crisis.”

Tenants earning less $99,000/year, or $198,000/year for joint tax filers, who are unable to pay full or partial rent due to a loss of income or extraordinary medical expenses are eligible for the CDC’s eviction moratorium, the release said. However, they must file a form certifying that they have tried to obtain government assistance to pay rent and will likely have to move in with another household or become homeless if they are evicted, it noted.

Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, noted that tenants still have to pay rent each month and could still get evicted when the order expires.

“The very least the government ought to do in the middle of a global pandemic is assure each of us that we’re not going to lose our homes,” she said. “The CDC moratorium keeps people in their homes today, but the rent is still due and the debt that renters owe will build each month until the moratorium expires on Dec. 31. And at that point all the back rent and late fees will be due.”

The release also noted that several communities have allocated funds to help at-risk residents pay the rent during this crisis, but assistance is limited and not available in many areas.

“Furthermore, demand for emergency rental assistance will soon outstrip local resources as the pandemic-induced recession continues into the winter,” the release said, noting that neither U.S. Congress nor the Ohio General Assembly have created an emergency rental assistance program.

Carlie Boos, executive director of the Affordable Housing Alliance of Central Ohio, said the CDC moratorium highlights the need for the state and federal governments to provide emergency rental assistance.

“Allowing tenants to fall deeper and deeper into debt not only ruins Ohioans’ future – it puts the entire housing market at risk,” she said. “Our state and federal leaders must prioritize emergency rental assistance to stabilize both vulnerable families and our vulnerable economy.”

The release advised that tenants who are behind on rent should immediately seek rental assistance and send a declaration form to their landlord, and the court if they have already received an eviction notice.