The courts are still largely closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As previously noted, this does not mean one cannot file lawsuits, motions and briefs. The judges are working behind closed doors. It does mean that evidentiary hearings and trials are on hold.
Alaska law provides for evictions on an expedited schedule, leaving debt issues for resolution later. But this two-part process entails an evidentiary hearing at the eviction stage, so that is currently precluded. The court has ordered a moratorium on evictions until early June – about now.
Federal law goes further. It precludes evictions in certain cases until August 23, 2020. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act prohibits landlords from initiating eviction proceedings – in effect, a moratorium on evictions. These protections to tenants presently extend for 120 days from March 27, 2020. Section 4024 (C) of the CARES Act requires landlords to provide tenants at least 30 days notice before they must vacate the property. Landlords are prohibited from issuing such notice until after the moratorium is over in late July. If the landlord issues notice promptly after the 120 days ends, the eviction will not occur before August 23rd. The federal law is ambiguous in part. It is unclear whether these limits apply to all evictions, or only those for nonpayment of rent. The federal law applies to covered dwellings, such as those that participate in federal assistance programs or were purchased with federally backed loans.
Complicating factors include the mounting debt owed by tenants who do not pay their rent, waste or other damage to the property during the moratorium, and/or use of rented property for undesirable activities. As of this writing, there is no apparent moratorium on lawsuits for damages and/or injunctions other than eviction orders.
The foregoing presentation is not exhaustive. The issues are complex and evolving. For further discussion of this issue, please contact JAMES B. WRIGHT & ASSOCIATES, P.C., 500 L Street, Suite 101, Anchorage, Alaska 99501. Telephone: (907) 277-6175; Facsimile: (907) 277-6181; E-mail: [email protected].