Business and Real Estate Recovery Part 2

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As the summer winds down, business and real estate operations have settled into a new sort of normal, that shifts and changes as the pandemic information rolls out.  This article provides some of the newest, most relevant COVID-19 information from the past few weeks.

CDC Eviction Moratorium

On September 1 the CDC issued an order Temporary Halting Residential Evictions to Prevent the Further Spread of COVID-19.  This order suspends residential evictions for single incomes up to $99,000 and joint return incomes up to $198,000 if they have experienced significant income loss due to the pandemic and cannot make their rent payments.  The order prohibits evictions through December 31, 2020, but does not suspend mortgage foreclosures.  There are significant criminal penalties for violations of this order, but there is no right for a tenant to file a claim.

The CDC order does not apply in any State, local, territorial, or tribal area with a residential eviction moratorium that provides the same or greater public-health protection. Because Washington and Oregon currently have more restrictive eviction bans, the order most likely does not apply.

The CDC’s order does not relieve tenants of their obligation to pay rent, make a housing payment, or comply with any other obligation under a tenancy, lease, or similar contract. The CDC’s order also does not prohibit landlords from charging or collecting fees, penalties, or interest for the failure to timely pay rent.  The CDC’s order does not prohibit evictions for reasons other than failure to timely pay rent or timely make a housing payment.

UPDATE:  Last week, The New Civil Liberties Alliance filed a lawsuit in Georgia – where the CDC is located – on behalf of a landlord from Virginia seeking to halt or overturn the CDC’s eviction moratorium order.  The lawsuit argues several legal theories, including violation of the Administrative Procedures Act, violation of the landlord’s right of access to the court system, violation of the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution, and a claim under the Contracts Clause of the Constitution. There are also claims for jurisdiction-stripping (which raises constitutional anti-commandeering principles), non-delegation doctrine arguments, and an argument that the Order is an unconstitutional suspension of state law.  We will update this blog as more information comes available.

Residential Utilities

Washington Proclamation 20-23.8 prohibits utility service providers from (1) disconnecting residential service due to nonpayment, (2) refusing to reconnect residential customers who were disconnected due to nonpayment, (3) charging late fees or reconnection fees, or (4) disconnecting service to any residential customer who has contacted the utility’s COVID-19 Customer Support Program to request assistance.  This prohibition is in place through October 15.

In Oregon, the following utilities have suspended disconnects and/or late fees during the COVID-19 outbreak.

  • 211 Info or Call 2-1-1
  • NW Natural: visit or call 1-800-422-4012 to make payment arrangements and get more info.
  • Portland General: customers visit or call 800-542-8818 to make payment arrangements.
  • Pacific Power: customers visit or call 1-888-221-7070 to speak with a customer care agent who can help answer any questions.

Local Government Small Business Grants

Many local governments are allocating a portion of their federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds to provide small business loans and grants.  For example:

Check with your local municipality or economic development council to find out if they have or are planning to start a program.  An updated list of funds provided to city and county governments is available here.

Safe Start Guidance

Gov Inslee released

  • an updated facial covering order, 20-03.1. The proclamation, which is effective until amended or rescinded, is available here
  • updated guidance for restaurants/taverns here
  • updated guidance for card rooms here
  • an extension of the eviction moratorium
  • a memo outlining updates to guidance for hosting gatherings, live entertainment, restaurants and taverns, entertainment and recreational centers, card rooms, movie theaters, and weddings and funerals
  • Phase 2 and Phase 3 fitness guidance
  • Proclamation 20-46.1, which provides protections for high-risk employees and workers’ rights has been extended. A clarifying guidance memo confirms that employees who are 65 and older continue to be covered by the proclamation and clarifies processes for employers of individuals with certain medical conditions.  The proclamation will remain in effect through the state of emergency or until otherwise rescinded or amended.

1031 Exchanges

IRS Code §1031 deadlines that fell between April 1, 2020, and July 14, 2020, can be extended to July 15, 2020. IRS has declined to extend the deadline past July 15th.

More Information

For additional information on these and other pandemic-related issues, see our COVID-19 Business and Real Estate Update blog and AWB’s Rebound and Recovery website for a lot of helpful tools and information.  Both are free for all Washington businesses.

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