Legal Protections for Renters in Idaho During the Pandemic
Some of our clients who have disabilities are struggling financially during this crisis and are not able to pay their rent. A few of them can breathe a sigh of relief until July 25, 2020, while others face an uncertain future knowing that they cannot pay theirs.
Idaho Law makes it possible for property owners to evict tenants using an expedited court process in normal circumstances. Idaho Code §§ 6-310 through 6-311D. Although no court hearings were held in the months of March and April 2020, the Idaho Supreme Court allowed these expedited court eviction proceedings to go forward starting in May.
There is a caveat to this. President Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) into law on March 27, 2020. Section 4024 of the CARES Act forbids proprietors who receive federal assistance or have a federally backed mortgage for their rental property from evicting or penalizing their tenants if the tenants cannot pay their rent. This prohibition on evictions includes, but is not limited to, housing such as Section 8 Housing programs, public housing, rural housing vouchers program, and other federally funded housing. Since federal law supersedes state law, no proprietors or property management company can use any type of lawsuit, including this expedited court process, until the moratorium expires on July 25, 2020.
For a tenant, determining whether the property they call home fits into this protected category will seem daunting, especially since this is already a stressful time. “Determining when the law applies can be a complicated question,” said Richie Eppink, the Legal Director of the ACLU of Idaho. “Combined with closed courthouses, telephone and video court hearings, lack of fair notice, and economic crisis, it is inhumane and unconscionable to throw families out of their homes during this pandemic.” https://www.acluidaho.org/en/press-releases/aclu-idaho-idaho-legal-aid-services-file-emergency-amicus-brief-halt-ada-county?fbclid=IwAR1Pj4ogAjt5ogor-eQOQtxrp2S8Y0wbPh71xdpHkVziWjPrSNNdvqMbmXg
To mediate this, the National Low-Income Housing Coalition provides an interactive map that lists all multifamily properties that are subject to the CARES Act federal eviction moratorium. Renters can find it here: https://nlihc.org/federal-moratoriums. This database does not include dwellings for which renters receive housing vouchers, although these housing voucher programs are also included in the moratorium.
If a property-owner does decide to initiate eviction proceedings, the Idaho Supreme Court requires the property owner to sign a Statement of Landlord Regarding CARES Act Eviction Proceeding which requires landlords to declare under the penalty of perjury that their real property subject to the eviction proceedings is not subject to the moratorium. https://isb.idaho.gov/wp-content/uploads/Statement-Landlord-Regarding-CARES-Act-Eviction-Moratorium-11.pdf. The Statement of Landlord Regarding CARES Act Eviction Proceeding provides another level of protection for renters living in dwellings subject to the CARES Act who are struggling to pay their rent by placing the burden on the property owner.
What if a renter cannot pay rent and his or her apartment is not subject to the CARES Act? Then the options are more limited. Community organizations are working hard to find legal and extralegal solutions for people who, due to job loss, cannot pay their rent.
On May 7, the ACLU of Idaho and Idaho Legal Aid Services filed an amici curiae brief in Ada County advocating that the expedited eviction proceedings in this time of a pandemic are constitutionally invalid due, among other things, to the closure of most of the courthouses in the state. You are able to read their arguments here. https://www.acluidaho.org/sites/default/files/ada_county_evictions_brief_of_amici_curiae_redacted.pdf.
If the Court accepts the ACLU and Idaho Legal Aid Services arguments, there is a possibility that all renters in Idaho will have protections such as those the CARES Act provides. Struggling renters should not count on this happening anytime soon.
It is likely that the Court will need some time to decide on the arguments the two groups propound, and the property owners will still be able to appeal if the Court issues an unsatisfactory decision.
While that case is ongoing, Idaho Legal Services has set up a housing hotline that is open from 10:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mountain Time (9:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Pacific Time). That number is 208-746-7541. https://www.acluidaho.org/en/press-releases/aclu-idaho-idaho-legal-aid-services-file-emergency-amicus-brief-halt-ada-county?fbclid=IwAR1Pj4ogAjt5ogor-eQOQtxrp2S8Y0wbPh71xdpHkVziWjPrSNNdvqMbmXg.
The best way to solve any rent related problems is by taking a proactive approach – not waiting for a summons to appear at your door. Jesse Tree, a local non-profit organization dedicated to preventing evictions and homelessness, provides short-term financial assistance and intensive case management. Often, Jesse Tree can work with property owners to find creative solutions that solve non-payment of rent issues without court. Jesse Tree’s hotline number is 208-383-9486 and is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Mountain Time Monday through Friday.
For more information, please call us at (208) 367-0723 and set up a free half hour consult