Notice to tenant for eviction inside brown envelope and face mask on top.The Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) Eviction Moratorium confirms President Reagan’s quip that a government program is the “nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth.” As explained in my prior post, the CDC issued an order in September 2020 “temporarily” halting residential evictions , reasoning that it was necessary to combat the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). That moratorium was originally set to expire on December 31, 2020, but Congress extended it by one month. Before that congressional extension expired, the CDC—now acting under the Biden administration—twice extended the moratorium, with the latter extension due to expire on June 30, 2021.

After repeatedly stating that he lacked the authority to extend the Eviction Moratorium again, President Biden caved into pressure from progressive Democrats and did exactly that earlier this month. The President doubted that the new extension would pass “constitutional muster” but was hopeful that the legal challenges would provide more time to distribute congressional funds for rental assistance.

Like the prior versions, the latest version of the Eviction Moratorium generally prohibits the evictions of a residential tenant who expects to earn $99,000 or less in 2021 (or $198,000 if filing jointly) and signs a declaration stating that he or she has lost income, applied for government assistance, and would likely become homeless or forced to move into a more crowded living situation if he or she was evicted. But, unlike prior versions, the latest one does not ban evictions nationwide. Instead, it applies in counties that are “experiencing substantial or high levels of community transmission of [COVID-19].” This latest version is set to expire on October 3, subject, of course, “to revision based on the changing public health landscape.”

The upshot is that the Eviction Moratorium is in effect for over 90 percent of the country and nearly all counties in Texas. Check this map to determine whether it applies to your property. The courts, however, are split on whether the Moratorium is legal. The Supreme Court has not ruled on it yet, but there are strong indications that most of the justices believe that the CDC lacks the authority to halt evictions. Here’s what you need to know about the latest extension:
Continue Reading The CDC’s New Eviction Moratorium Extends the Uncertainty for Landlords and Tenants

Yellow metal sign.Angelica Bux and her son Duke own a fast-growing, family business Blue Skies Air Conditioning and Heating, LLC in Cotulla Texas. Angelica plans to retire by selling Blue Skies to Duke to fund her retirement.  Their business consultant developed their near-term plan to expand and maximize their business’ value. More recently, their tax and estate planning lawyers outlined an effective tax transition plan and the formation of a Blue Skies’ advisory team to support Duke’s management after the sale. To complete the purchase, should Duke buy the assets or Angelica’s membership interest in the Blue Skies’ limited liability company? Often buyers prefer to purchase the company’s assets, and sellers would rather sell the entire company. Why is that? Does an inter-family sale affect their decision?
Continue Reading Selling Mom’s Business – Asset or Stock Sale?

Defaulting renter with facemask receives letter giving notice of eviction from home on wooden tableDrake Goodman and Patty Palmer lease a studio apartment to Carter Haynes. But Haynes has not paid rent since last May, when the shelter-in-place orders caused his fledging restaurant to go out of business. While sympathetic to Haynes’s plight, the loss of rental income has severely damaged Goodman and Palmer’s own finances, and they are growing increasingly desperate. Can they evict Hayes? Should they?
Continue Reading CDC’s Eviction Moratorium: Legal Limbo for Landlords and Tenants

Great concept of divorce in quarantine due to the 2019 coronavirus pandemic. Face mask cut in half with wedding rings.Jack Bux and his high school sweetheart, Diane, have been married a few years, but the pandemic has taken its toll on their relationship, and they could soon be parting ways. Going into the marriage, Jack had a number of property interests – a home with a mortgage, a retirement account and a small part of the family business – and now he’s concerned that Diane will be able to walk away with half of what he’s been building over the years. Like most Texans, Jack is aware that when it comes to marital property, Texas is a “community property state.” What does this really mean for Jack’s home, retirement account and business?
Continue Reading Texas Community Property Law: An Intro for Business Owners

Entrance of Walt Disney World in Orlando, FloridaUncle Pennybags plans to build a hotel on Marvin Gardens, but to do so, he needs to acquire adjacent properties on Atlantic Avenue, owned by Charles Darrow, and Ventnor Avenue, owned by George Parker. Pennybags knows that if Darrow or Parker knew of his plans, they would demand a higher price for their properties and a still higher price would be demanded by the last lot owner to sell. So Pennybags forms a dummy company called Acme Acquisitions, LLC and appoints his good friend, Lizzie Magie, as its president. Magie approaches Darrow and Parker, who both agree to sell their properties to Acme Acquisitions on favorable terms. After the contracts have been signed, Pennybags announces that he is the true purchaser and that he plans to build his hotel. Furious, Darrow and Parker refuse to consummate the transaction, so Pennybags sues. Are Darrow and Parker out of luck?
Continue Reading Using a Dummy Company Can Be a Smart Business Decision

Eager to spark the socialist revolution, left-wing activists seized Ramsett Park and the surrounding area and declared an independent autonomous community dedicated to social and economic justice. The activists threw up barricades and excluded both the police and the “bourgeoisie” owners of businesses surrounding the park. Fearing a primary challenge, Mayor Gunderson ordered the police to withdraw from the area except for life-or-death situations. As days turned into weeks, the area reverted to a Hobbesian state, with violence increasing and refuge accumulating in the street. Mayor Gunderson belatedly ordered the area cleared. When the business owners returned, they found their buildings vandalized and their property stolen or destroyed. They look to hold someone responsible. But the activists have disappeared, and, in any event, hippies are notoriously judgment proof. Can Mayor Gunderson and the City be held liable for not enforcing the law?
Continue Reading Dereliction of Duty: Can Local Governments Be Liable for Not Protecting Property from Protestors?

The Lillian Corporation purchases a vacant and dilapidated office building with plans to demolish it and build luxury condos. Only one thing stands in the way: a mural on the side of the building painted years earlier by a well-known local artist, Phillip Semenko. The mural is renowned and become a popular destination for tourists. After learning of the Lillian Corporation’s plans, Semenko threatens to sue to stop the development. Will Semenko succeed or is this just another case of artistic temperament?

Continue Reading Painting over Property Rights: The Effect of the Visual Artists Rights Act on Real-Estate Development

open sign on business door

Reeling from months of governmental orders that required all restaurants to close their doors, Chez Quis was elated to re-open and welcome back its diners, even at a reduced capacity. But elation quickly turned to despair when Chez Quis learned that one of its longtime customers, Abe Froman, had sued the restaurant for allegedly contracting the coronavirus (COVID-19) while dining there. Has Chez Quis jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire?
Continue Reading Stay Shut Down or Be Sued? The Risk to Your Business from COVID-19 Premises-Liability Claims

Closed sign. (Sorry we are closed)

Wanting to diversify his investments, Ernest “Big Daddy” Bux signed a franchise agreement with GA Fitness last year. Construction by Big Daddy’s contractor Bill Toosuit is scheduled to be completed for in time for an early May grand opening in the new strip center owned and managed by Mawl & Mawl. Last week, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the town’s mayor and the state governor prohibited any gathering of more than 10 people and directed that all bars, restaurants and gymnasiums close. Now that gymnasiums are prohibited from opening, Big Daddy’s business is almost certain to fail, and Mawl & Mawl loses a tenant. If Big Daddy stops construction and buys out his current lease obligation, Bill Toosuit loses his construction project and Mawl & Mawl loses a long-term tenant. Can Big Daddy get out of his lease obligations? And his construction contract? Are there other options to get to a win-win?
Continue Reading Can COVID-19 Trigger a Force Majeure Defense?

Woman hangs a card with information about the store closing on a shop window due to the coronavirusWanting to diversify his investments, Ernest “Big Daddy” Bux signed a franchise agreement with GA Fitness last year. Construction by Big Daddy’s contractor Bill Toosuit is scheduled to be completed for in time for an early May grand opening in the new strip center owned and managed by Mawl & Mawl. Last week, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the town’s mayor and the state governor prohibited any gathering of more than 10 people and directed that all bars, restaurants and gymnasiums close. Now that gymnasiums are prohibited from opening, Big Daddy’s business is almost certain to fail, and Mawl & Mawl loses a tenant. If Big Daddy stops construction and buys out his current lease obligation, Bill Toosuit loses his construction project and Mawl & Mawl loses a long-term tenant. Can Big Daddy get out of his lease obligations? And his construction contract? Are there other options to get to a win-win?
Continue Reading Can COVID-19 Make a Contract Impossible to Perform?