Can you still be evicted during COVID-19? Yes. But how?

Published: Apr. 13, 2020 at 10:48 PM EDT
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The balancing act between tenant and landlord has recently shifted because of COVID-19. Can the shift cause a tenant to be evicted? The answer is yes, but only under extreme circumstances.

Right after the Kentucky Supreme Court suspended all court proceedings for non-emergency cases, including evictions, landlords across the state were forced to weigh their options while many scrounging for this month's rent took a deep breath.

Governor Andy Beshear would take another step forward by issuing an order of no evictions until after the state of emergency were to be lifted. However, in that order was an exemption that could still give landlords some power.

The exemption allows landlords only to evict if the tenant is engaging in dangerous criminal behavior or a serious threat to the public's health.

Kentucky's labor cabinet has launched a waiver that must be filled out detailing the danger by the landlord. If approved, the order would allow a judge to consider the request. So far, only four waivers have been approved and now waiting to see a judge -- though courts are currently closed. One case involved a serious drug offense while another centered around a dangerous dog.

Landlord Attorney Stephen Marshall says courts are now trying to figure out how to hear the cases. He says there are restrictions that the public needs to understand along with rules landlords must follow.

"The Governor made it clear that this exemption is going to be rarely used," said Marshall. "It's only for emergencies, and if it gets misused, it will be taken away."

Marshall says he has taken in calls from concerned landlords that now can't expect rent from tenants. He says some use the rent to pay mortgages, others to live day-to-day.

In some rare cases, he says tenants say they won't pay rent because they don't have to -- though they will be forced to back-pay.

Nationally, he says just under 70% of tenants were able to pay rent at the beginning of April. The percentage is much higher than many projected.

Marshall says while everyone is struggling, there is a light that he sees in many tenants and landlords working together to find solutions. He's aware central Kentucky holds landlords abusing the system alike tenants but urges those renting to use communication as your greatest tool.

"Tenants, if you're having a hard time, the best thing you can do is reach out to your landlords," said Marshall. "I can guarantee you, for most landlords, they are feeling the same crunch."

Eviction cases are projected to resume on June 1. Marshall believes minor drug offenses will not be enough cause for evictions.

As of April 13, no Kentuckian has been legally evicted since the orders were issued.