N.C. Policy Watch: Despite a federal stay on evictions, landlords are ousting their tenants

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, North Carolinians across the state continue to struggle with paying rent and getting rental assistance, all while staying afloat. 

The latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) federal eviction moratorium and the state’s residential eviction moratorium extensions through June 30th has given many North Carolinians much needed relief, but despite these protections, many are still facing forms of evictions unprotected by the moratoriums.

From N.C. Policy Watch:

Isaac Sturgill is the head of the housing practice group at Legal Aid of North Carolina, which provides free legal assistance to very-low income residents. Sturgill told Policy Watch that many magistrates interpret the federal moratorium as governing only nonpayment cases, so landlords are becoming more sophisticated in circumventing it.

“We’re seeing a jump in cases where people are evicted for minor lease stuff the landlord never used to care about and all of a sudden they do,” Sturgill said, such as keeping a grill on the front porch.

Researchers and housing advocates told Policy Watch that the term “moratorium” is a misnomer. Rather than instituting an automatic bar on evictions due to failure to pay rent, the CDC moratorium provides a legal avenue for tenants to invoke the protection. But they need to know about it first.

“We still run across people all the time who didn’t know about it,” Sturgill said. “Many of them are facing evictions the first time in their lives.”

According to The Chronicle, “unlike earlier protections, the recent CDC moratorium only protects tenants against eviction for nonpayment of rent. It doesn’t protect against other types of evictions, including holdover evictions—in which the landlord chooses not to renew the tenant’s lease at the end of its term—or breaches of lease”.

An estimated 12 million renters were behind on rent in the middle of March, according to a Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analysis — with increases in Black and Brown renters remaining behind on rent.

In North Carolina, about 435,000 people are at risk of eviction statewide, as many landlords are finding legal loopholes to evict their tenants

Just as the pandemic has disproportionately affected communities of color, racial disparities in the ability to afford housing is exposing families’ vulnerability to evictions. With Black and Brown households becoming increasingly behind on rent, adequate and equitable housing protections and funding are needed.

Bottom Line: Too many North Carolina families have fallen through the cracks and in order for our state to meet the needs, funds for rental assistance, tenant protections and reduce barriers to affordable housing are vital for an equitable and just recovery.

Alanna Joyner

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