Landlord-Tenant Issues and COVID-19

Overview/COVID-19 Impact

During this stressful and unprecedented time, many consumers are unable to make their monthly rent payments. Certain workers, including restaurant and retail workers who have been laid off because their employer has closed, are going to be particularly affected. Unemployment offices across the nation have been overwhelmed with unemployment claims. Here is what consumers should know about potential evictions and resources that are available to them during this crisis.


What COVID-19 Rights and Resources are Available for Renters?

Some renters are protected against eviction under the new CARES Act passed by Congress to address the Covid-19 crisis. The Act does not protect all tenants – it only protects those leasing a rental home that is receiving federal subsidies or a property where the landlord or owner has a federally backed mortgage loan on the house or property. Protected properties include most types of public housing, such as Section 8 subsidized homes, as well as:

  • Public housing;
  • Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers;
  • Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance;  
  • Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly;
  • Section 811 Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities;
  • Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS (HOPWA);
  • McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants;
  • Section 236 Preservation Program;
  • HOME Investment Partnerships;
  • Rural Development Multifamily Housing (Section 516 Farm Labor Housing Grants, Section 542 Rural Development Vouchers, Section 521 Rural Rental Assistance, Section 533 Housing Preservation Grants); and
  • the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) Program.

The CARES Act also applies to a large percentage of rental homes that are subject to a mortgage including Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans, as well as VA- and FHA-mortgaged properties.

For renters living in one of these houses or properties, the CARES Act prohibits evictions as well as late fees for a period of 120 days starting on March 27, 2020. Further, landlords are not allowed to issue a notice to vacate until after this period is over and they are not allowed to require a tenant to actually vacate the unit until 30 days after that notice is given. This only applies to evictions for nonpayment of rent, not for other causes. Although you may be temporarily protected from eviction proceedings due to nonpayment of rent, the missed rent during this period is not forgiven and these unpaid amounts will accrue during this period even if fees are not assessed.

Renters should not have to do anything to benefit from this prohibition on evictions and late fees.

Renters who believe their landlord is out of compliance with these provisions should contact their local legal aid or the relevant federal agency (i.e. the agency providing subsidies or the federal mortgage backing for the property).

While the CARES Act protections may apply to many consumers, it will not protect everyone. If you are facing the possibilitiy of missing rent payments, you should contact your landlord and attempt to work out a deferred payment plan, or reach an agreement by which you can make reduced or partial payments during the next few months.


What You Can Do

Landlord-tenant laws vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. However, in most places, your landlord cannot evict you without obtaining a court order. In many jurisdictions, eviction proceedings have been postponed.

  • If you have received a pay-or-quit or failure-to-pay-rent notice, but not a court summons, in most places, you do not have to move out of the property immediately. Contact an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction to discuss your legal rights.
  • If you have received a summons or notification of a court date, contact the courthouse to see if the hearing is proceeding or if it has been postponed, and contact an attorney for assistance.
  • If your rental is in need of repairs, make sure to document your request for repairs in writing.
  • If your landlord has evicted you without obtaining a court order, contact the police, as well as an attorney to help obtain emergency relief for this potentially unlawful eviction.


Rights and Protections

Evictions vary from state to state. However, most jurisdictions require a court order for an eviction to be legal, and your landlord cannot remove you from your home without providing you with the appropriate notice and taking you to court.

Many jurisdictions have postponed eviction proceedings during the COVID-19 crisis, prohibited utility shut-offs, limited late fees that can be assessed during this time, and taken other measures to protect vulnerable tenants. Information regarding some of these measures can be found at:

In addition, the National Housing Project is maintaining a list of the current status of each state’s actions regarding evictions and foreclosures, which can be found at:

In Virginia, your landlord cannot evict you without taking certain measures. First, they must provide you with a five-day pay-or-quit notice. You do not have to move out simply because you receive this notice. Instead, after sending you this notice, your landlord must still take you to court and obtain a court order to have you evicted from your home. As of right now, no eviction proceedings are being heard until at least April 26, 2020 in Virginia.

In addition, in Virginia, your landlord cannot remove you or use any “self help,” such as turning off your utilities or changing the locks. If this happens, you can obtain relief from the court for this unlawful eviction. Obtaining a court order is the only legal way for you to be evicted from the premises.

Landlords must still make any repairs required under your lease. If something breaks in your home that your landlord is required to repair, make sure to send them a letter requesting the repair.

Finally, the Virginia State Corporation Commission has told electric, gas, and water company that they cannot shut off your service until the COVID-19 crisis ends. If you live in Virginia and your Dominion Power service was recently turned off, you can call 1-866-366-4357 to get reconnected.

In the District of Columbia, all eviction cases have been canceled through April 30, 2020. In addition, the D.C. Council passed emergency legislation on March 17, 2020 that prohibits evictions of residential tenants for 90 days, the assessment of any late fees, and utility shut-offs for non-payment.


Almost half of the states in the U.S. have prohibited utility shut-offs during the COVID-19 crisis, including:

  • California;
  • Connecticut;
  • District of Columbia;
  • Illinois;
  • Indiana;
  • Iowa;
  • Kansas;
  • Kentucky;
  • Louisiana;
  • Maine;
  • Maryland;
  • Massachusetts;
  • Mississippi;
  • New Hampshire;
  • New Jersey;
  • New York;
  • North Carolina;
  • Ohio;
  • Pennsylvania;
  • South Carolina;
  • Vermont;
  • Virginia;
  • West Virginia (regulators are “urging” utilities to suspend disconnections); and
  • Wisconsin.

For a complete list of the statements of state utility commissions regarding their COVID-19 policies, please see the following website:

You may also contact your local utility company regarding available relief as many are allowing deferred payments during this crisis.


Other Resources

Nationwide Resources:

Landlord-Tenant Resources by State: