Posted on January 22, 2021 in COVID-19 DAILY UPDATESHEALTH LAW NEWS

Published by: HALL RENDER

December 2020 was one of the deadliest months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Approximately 77,000 people died from the disease, and over 6.4 million tested positive with daily COVID-19 counts averaging over 205,000 cases. Yet despite these increased numbers and the corresponding effect on the domestic and global economy (another 140,000 workers lost their jobs in December 2020), state-based commercial eviction directives continue to dwindle. For example, some of the state executive and judicial directives highlighted in Hall Render’s July 9, 2020 article no longer remain, including Connecticut (expired on September 1, 2020), Illinois (expired on July 26, 2020), Massachusetts (expired on October 17, 2020) and Pennsylvania (expired on July 10, 2020).

Even so, some commercial directives continue to limit the remedies available to commercial landlords. California and New York, for example, further extended their directives – at both the state and local level – to protect commercial tenants from eviction due to nonpayment:

  • California. Executive Order No. N-80-20 continues to provide local governments with the authority to impose eviction restrictions until March 31, 2021 (such order being an extension of Executive Order Nos. N-28-20 and N-70-20).
  • New York. Executive Order No. 81 prohibits landlords from initiating eviction proceedings against a tenant based on nonpayment caused by COVID-19 until January 31, 2021 (such order being an extension of Executive Order No. 202.48).

Other states elected not to tie commercial eviction restrictions to a set date but instead to state emergency declarations, including:

  • Maine. Executive Order No. 40 FY 19/20, which places a moratorium on all evictions based on rent nonpayment, expires 30 days after the statewide COVID-19 emergency declaration ends.
  • Maryland. Executive Order 20-04-03-01, which moratorium limits evictions where a tenant can demonstrate a substantial loss of income due to the pandemic, expires at the same time as the statewide emergency declaration.

In other instances, certain states prefer courts to directly guide eviction actions. States opting for this method of enforcement – including the power to hear matters involving eviction – consist of:

  • Ohio. Although district court systems previously had broad discretion in deciding what cases to hear during the pandemic, the Ohio Supreme Court has opted to temporarily continue all eviction filings, pending eviction proceedings, scheduled move-outs and the execution of foreclosure judgments until further notice.
  • New Jersey. The Supreme Court of New Jersey issued the Sixth Omnibus Order, which suspended all civil trials, including landlord-tenant matters, but still allowed complaints to be filed. As of January 7, 2021, courts in the state have allowed all civil case types to resume, but all civil jury trials—some of which may involve civil eviction matters—must be done virtually.

As the COVID-19 vaccine becomes more readily available and the ongoing health crisis continues to evolve, businesses must remain vigilant in navigating the dynamic slew of landlord-tenant regulatory changes imposed at both the state and local levels. Doing so could be the difference between an entity emerging from the pandemic intact and facing major commercial consequences in the future. The health care industry is especially susceptible to such shifts, as a recent survey from the American Medical Association reports that 81% of physicians have experienced an average drop of 32% in revenue since February 2020. Such hardships could accordingly lead to a host of financial woes for health care practices in 2021, including the inability to pay rent both fully and on-time.

If you would like additional information about Commercial Eviction Moratoria as it pertains to health care real estate, please contact:

Special thanks to Malcolm Sullivan, Real Estate Intern, for his assistance with the preparation of this article.