Christopher Cook

Christopher Cook

As many Idaho landlords and renters alike have come to know, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an order effective Sept. 4, 2020, through Dec. 31, 2020, titled "Temporary Halt in Residential Evictions to Prevent the Further Spread of COVID-19." The order and its related eviction protections, which were already extended once to Jan. 31, 2021, have now been extended a second time until March 31, 2021. While the first month-long extension resulted from Congress’s passage of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, the second stemmed from one of the first executive orders President Joe Biden signed after formally taking office. Following the president’s executive order, the director of the CDC, Rochelle Walensky, extended the order and related eviction protections through March 31, 2021 — “kicking the can” for another two months.

With the purported goal of helping curtail the spread of COVID-19, the order serves to temporarily halt residential evictions against covered renters for the non-payment of rent. Critically, the order does not act as an automatic eviction moratorium; instead, tenants must take affirmative action to assert available protections. Namely, qualifying tenants must complete and sign, under penalty of perjury, the form CDC declaration and deliver a copy to their landlord. While likely of little solace to landlords facing their own financial hardships, the order does not otherwise excuse the non-payment of rent or the continued accrual of applicable fees/penalties. Further, residential evictions for reasons other than the non-payment of rent may generally still proceed.

To compound frustrations, there appears to be little consensus among Idaho courts when it comes to allowing landlords to challenge the veracity of a tenant’s CDC declaration once the same has been presented. While arguably contrary to recent non-binding CDC guidance, the conservative approach appears to be for courts to generally accept the declaration, and thereby the determination of a tenant’s status as a “covered person” under the order, at face value — effectively halting the eviction process without contest. This result left many landlords anxiously awaiting the expiration of the order on Jan. 31. However, for those residential landlords who have received the CDC deceleration from non-paying tenants, the wait to proceed with residential “quick” evictions for the non-payment of rent likely continues for a while longer. As the end of March approaches, time will tell if landlords are to expect a third extension.

Ultimately, this area of law continues to rapidly evolve and is highly dependent on the application of the law to the facts and circumstances of the particular case. As a result, legal counsel is strongly encouraged when evaluating options and rights regarding residential or commercial tenancies and related eviction actions.

Christopher Cook is a transactional associate attorney specializing in business and real estate law. Before joining Hawley Troxell, he practiced domestic relations law and general civil litigation in Colorado and Idaho. Cook graduated cum laude from DePaul University College of Law. During law school, he was a research assistant to a nationally regarded scholar on disability rights and complex tort litigation, became a licensed mediator with the Chicago Center for Conflict Resolution and practiced as a student clinician through DePaul’s legal clinic. Prior to law school, he earned his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree in finance with an emphasis in international business from the University of Colorado Leeds School of Business. At the University of Colorado, he was a statistics teaching assistant as well as a project assistant and Translator to an Italian engineering firm in Florence, Italy. Cook is a native of the Wood River Valley, is professionally conversant in Italian and Spanish, and has dual citizenship in the United States and European Union (Italy).