State Action on Evictions, Foreclosures, and Utilities

This week, Governor Bullock issued an executive order to place a moratorium on evictions in light of COVID-19. We included this recommendation in our report released earlier this week, and it is a step that many other housing advocates are calling for. With thousands of workers facing reduced hours or layoff, families are grappling with how to cover basic necessities, like food, utilities, and housing costs. Enforcing evictions and forcing families into precarious living situations poses a threat to public health, at a time that emergency shelters or other affordable housing are all at maximum capacity.

At least 34 states have issued moratoriums on evictions, either through executive order or by court order. Governors in twenty-two other states (Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, California, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington, and Wisconsin) have issued executive orders providing a moratorium on evictions. Montana’s executive order is consistent with these other orders.

Here is a quick rundown of Governor Bullock’s executive order:

The moratorium applies from March 31 through April 10, 2020, and applies to:

  • Evictions on residential renters when that eviction is tied to nonpayment;
  • Foreclosures on residential homeowners when that eviction is tied to nonpayment; and
  • Shutting off utilities, including electricity, water, telephone, and internet services to a dwelling unit or residence.

The order directs the courts to immediately stay (or halt) pending eviction actions, and prevents new eviction filings or enforcement during the applicable period.

The order prohibits trustee’s sale, sheriff’s sale, or other involuntary sale/foreclosure proceeding of residential property during the applicable period, and directs the courts to stay any pending foreclosure actions during the applicable period.

Landlords are also prohibited from:

  • charging late fees, interest, or other charges related to nonpayment of rent;
  • increasing rent amounts that were not previously agreed to in an existing lease;
  • requesting suspension or termination of utilities; or
  • reporting a tenant’s nonpayment to a credit agency.

The order provides an exemption from this moratorium for evictions and foreclosures that may be related to reasons other than nonpayment (for example, criminal actions or damage to the property).

The order does not apply to evictions or foreclosures of property used for commercial purposes.

We applaud Governor Bullock’s actions that continue to protect the public health and ensure families do not lose their home during this difficult period of time.

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