• Stephen Longo

Renters, homeowners and other COVID-19 questions

Recently, Stephen Longo was interviewed on KKTV regarding CPVID-19 legal questions.

Part 2: Renters, homeowners and mask requirements

What advantage does a renter or homeowner have if they can’t pay their rent/mortgage right now? Is it still lawful for them to be evicted?

It depends on the situation and if someone is protected by the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid + Relief Economic Stability Act). If someone is renting at a property that is through a government program, they are protected by the CARES Act. Under the Act, they are not able to be assessed fees or penalties for late or non-payment by their landlord. Additionally, there is a 120-moratorium on evictions.

If you’re renting at a property that is not subject to the CARES Act, you can be legally evicted. However, keep in mind that evictions are legal processes and that most of our courts are only operating on a limited basis. Additionally, a lot of Sheriff’s offices have pulled resources away from doing evictions. In short, while you may be able to be legally evicted, there are several obstacles for your landlord to actually do it.

Regarding mortgages, the CARES Act allows individuals a 180-day forbearance period on all federally backed mortgages – think FHA, Freddie Mac, Mannie Mae, and VA loans. It also allows for an additional 180-day extension on the forbearance.

Can I be required to go back to work if I don’t feel safe at this point?

The short answer is, “yes,” with exceptions. Under OSHA guidelines, you cannot be forced back to work if you’re in ‘imminent danger’ from an ‘unsafe work environment.’ So, if your employer is not practicing necessary preventative safety measures – adequate spacing at work, screening, taking temperatures, requiring masks, etc. – it could meet these criteria. However, don’t forget that OSHA complaints take time and a lot of paperwork, so this may not be a practical approach if you’re returning to work soon.

A more practical option may be to take leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) which would allow you to stay home without the threat of losing your job.

What if I’m elderly or have pre-existing conditions, how should I approach this with my employer?

This is important because someone who is at an increased risk could meet the OSHA standard of being in ‘imminent danger’ from an ‘unsafe work environment.’ They should make sure their workplace is safe and discuss with their employer all preventative safety measures the employer is taking to ensure a safe work environment.

Can a business require me to wear a mask?

Yes, so long as the requirement is not being applied in a discriminatory manner, a business can require you to wear a mask at their property. Businesses need to be aware of individuals who cannot wear a mask due to medical conditions such as asthma, COPD or other respiratory issues. Not permitting these individuals to enter for failing to wear a mask could be considered discrimination and a violation under the ADA.

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