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November 2020

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The LARC ADVOCATE

“We stand alone, together.”

A monthly newsletter from

THE LEGAL ADVICE & REFERRAL CENTER

ISSUE 9 | NOVEMBER 2020

 

In this issue:

CDC Eviction Moratorium Update

CDC Declaration delaying eviction – How does it work?

Economic Impact Payment Update

News and Information for the Low-Income Community

Good Client Story

CDC Eviction Moratorium Update

Enacted in September, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) eviction moratorium has provided relief for an increasing number of New Hampshire tenants. In early October, the CDC provided more guidance for tenants and landlords about how the moratorium works. There is some important information in the new guidance. Three important parts of the new guidance are explained below and should serve as a caution to tenants who may be interested in using the protections of the CDC moratorium.

First, the guidance states that landlords can begin the eviction proceedings even if they have a signed declaration from their tenant. The moratorium will not allow for the tenant to be evicted until after the end of the year, but the court proceedings may begin. This will put some tenants in the position of being removed from their home within days of January 1, 2021.

Second, landlords can challenge the truthfulness of the declaration in court. Tenants need to make sure they are signing the declaration truthfully and accurately. If a landlord believes a tenant is being dishonest in using the protections of the moratorium, then the landlord can ask a judge to question whether the CDC moratorium should really apply to the tenant.

Third, the guidance states that while tenants may use their own declaration, it must provide identical information to the declaration created by the CDC. The CDC provides five important qualifications a tenant must meet to use the declaration. These five categories are: the tenant has applied for all available government assistance, the tenant expects to earn no more than $99,000 in the year 2020, the tenant is unable to pay the full rental amount because of substantial loss of income, the tenant is making best efforts to make partial payments to the landlord, and the eviction would likely render the tenant homeless. Unfortunately, if a tenant does not fall within those five guidelines it seems unlikely that the CDC eviction moratorium would be an available option for the tenant to use to avoid eviction.

The full text of the new CDC guidance can be found here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/eviction-moratoria-o.... More information on the CDC eviction moratorium can be found on our website: https://nhlegalaid.org/legal-issues-during-covid-19-crisis.

Economic Impact Payment Update

October 15, 2020 was the deadline for non-filers to complete the IRS form to receive their Economic Impact Payment (EIP).

Most people get their Economic Impact payment automatically after filing a tax return (or based on participation in certain federally administered programs). If you are among the "non-filers," you would have needed to take action to get your money (worth up to $1,200 for adults and $500 for qualifying children). Eligible individuals had until October 15, 2020 to file for their EIP this year. Because this deadline has now passed, if you did not file for your EIP before October 15, 2020, you can still claim your EIP payment as a credit on your 2020 federal income tax return.

Also, eligible people with dependent children age 16 and under had until the end of September to register using the Non-Filers tool on the IRS.gov website in order to receive $500 per child economic impact payments (EIP) before the end of 2020. Individuals who missed the previous short deadlines in the spring and did not register their dependent children with the IRS had until September 30, 2020 to provide this information so that they could receive their payment this year.

Eligible individuals include people who receive Social Security retirement, survivor, or disability benefits, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Railroad Retirement benefits or Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits and have qualifying children under age 17 but who were not required to file a tax return for 2018 or 2019. These individuals should have already received their own $1,200 stimulus payment but were not sent the $500 dependent payment for their qualifying children. Those who already used the non-filer tool after the spring deadlines do not need to re-enter the information about their dependent children and will now be receiving their $500 payment for each child before the end of this year.

As with the standard EIP mentioned above, if you did not file for the additional $500 EIP for eligible children before September 30, 2020, you can still claim the additional $500 EIP payment per qualifying child as a credit on your 2020 federal income tax return.

Also, people in either group above who had some work income in 2019 but not enough to have to file a tax return, should probably file a regular 2019 tax return, rather than use the Non-Filers tool. They might have a refund coming from payroll tax withholding, the earned income tax credit, or the additional child tax credit. For those who should file a regular 2019 tax return, refer them to 211 to find someone to help them prepare and file the tax return.

CDC Declaration delaying eviction – How does it work?

If you are facing eviction for not paying your rent, the CDC ‘s recent order may allow you to stay in your rental until December 31, 2020. You must fill out a form called a CDC Declaration and give it to your landlord.

To use the CDC Declaration, you must be able to swear under the pains and penalties of perjury that ALL the following are true:

1. You tried your best to get all available government assistance for rent or housing.

2. You expect to earn no more than $99,000 in annual income from January 1 to December 31, 2020 (or no more than $198,000 if filing a joint tax return), OR you were not required to report any income in 2019 to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS), OR you got an Economic Impact Payment (“EIP” or stimulus check) under the CARES Act.

3. You cannot pay the full rent or make a full housing payment because you lost substantial household income, lost wages or hours at work, were laid-off, or you had extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses (read what this means below).

4. You are trying your best to make partial payments on time that are as close to the full payment amount as your situation allows (considering your other required expenses). AND

5. If you are evicted and because you have no other available housing, you would likely be homeless, need to move into a homeless shelter, or need to move into a new residence shared by other people who live in close quarters.

Keep in mind that there are exceptions.

You may still be evicted for reasons other than not paying full rent or making a full housing payment. You can still be evicted for:

1. engaging in criminal activity while on the premises; OR

2. threatening the health or safety of the landlord and/or other residents; OR

3. damaging or posing an immediate and significant risk of damage to property; OR

4. violating any applicable building code, health ordinance, or similar regulation relating to health and safety; OR

5. violating any other section of your lease (aside from paying your rent or similar housing-related payment including fees, penalties, or interest).

Finally, there is an argument to be made that the CDC order might cover you if you are facing eviction for reasons that are not based on the bad behavior that is listed above.

For more information, if you have questions, or if you think the CDC order may apply to you, contact LARC. See the CDC Declaration form.

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NOTE: An "extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expense" is defined in the Order as any unreimbursed medical expense that is likely to exceed 7.5% of one's adjusted gross income for the year. adjusted gross income (AGI) is your total gross income minus specific deductions.

News and Information for the Low-Income Community

Free Legal Advice and Referrals:

LARC advises low-income people of their legal rights in non-criminal matters. Call 800-639-5290 between 9 AM and 1 PM weekdays, or apply online at any time. LARC gives free legal advice by telephone and makes referrals to partner agencies: NH Legal Aid and the Pro Bono Program.

Economic Impact Payments:

The IRS has a help line for those who did not receive an EIP payment. You can initiate a trace on your payment by calling the IRS at 800-919-9835.

Help for those struggling with mortgage payments:

Many homeowners are behind on mortgage payments. Servicers and other financial institutions have options available. To learn what they are and what to do, watch a short video from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. This guide explains more about mortgage relief options.

Housing counselors can help free-of-charge to explore options for each situation. Call 211 to find a HUD-approved Housing Counselor (just dial 2-1-1). Multilingual assistance and TDD access are also available. For those outside of New Hampshire, call 1-866-444-4211. or go to the 211 website.

Homeowners who are behind on mortgage payments due to COVID-19 can apply for financial help. Direct them to www.capnh.org. or to call their local CAP agency or call 2-1-1 from any NH phone.

If foreclosure is imminent, they can apply for free legal advice from LARC’s Foreclosure Relief Project (FRP): leave a message at 877-399-9995 or apply online.

Community Guidance for the COVID-19 crisis from NHLA:

New Hampshire Legal Assistance (NHLA) offers a detailed guide with up-to-date information on state and federal assistance and other programs available to people in need with links to apply or to get more information. See NHLA’s Community Guidance for the CIVOD-19 crisis also available on the homepage of their website, nhla.org. Topics covered in this guide include CARES Act stimulus payments; Social Security Benefits; Unemployment Insurance Benefits; Utilities support; Food Stamps; Cash Assistance; Medicaid; Domestic Violence; Housing; Senior and Consumer Law; and Youth Law/Education.

NHLA hopes you will share this resource with your community and clients.

Good Client Story

"Mary" was a 33-year-old Mom who, for the past two years, lived with her two minor children in a rented room in the Lakes Region. Mary's property manager handed her an eviction notice in October during the second wave of the pandemic. The notice ordered Mary's family to leave the room by early December so that renovations could be started. The notice warned that police would arrest her for criminal trespass if she failed to leave by the deadline.

Mary showed her eviction notice to the local police and asked if they would enforce the property manager's order. The police said they would indeed arrest her for trespass if she was not out by the expiration date on the notice. Mary turned to the Legal Advice & Referral Center (LARC) for help.

LARC advised Mary that she earned tenant rights after her first 90 days in the rented room. The property manager, LARC continued, now had to bring an action into court and ultimately get permission from a judge before Mary could be lawfully removed. With Mary's consent, a LARC attorney next reached out to the attorney for the town where she lived and discussed the threatened ejection by police.

The town's attorney was familiar with the rooming house and assured LARC that the local police would observe the tenant rights of long-term renters there, like Mary. The town's attorney also promised to give the local police a "refresher course" on the subject so that no officer would mistakenly perform an unlawful ejection. The attorney invited LARC to call back if any problems occurred in the future.

LARC relayed the town attorney's message to Mary.

"Thank you so much for helping me," Mary said. "I'll finally be able to sleep tonight."

If you know someone who had a good outcome with a legal case due to LARC’s help, please share that Good Client Story with us! We would love to share it with our readers. LARC will never use a client’s real name or any facts that could reveal who that client is. Send your Good Client Stories to: webmaster@larcnh.org and put “Good Client Story” in the subject line.

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