Eviction moratorium extended but better protections needed, says evicted Fayetteville man

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The CDC has extended the eviction moratorium through March 31 to keep people in their homes.

Rakeem Jones’ son was in the middle of virtual schooling when a sheriff’s deputy knocked on the door to evict the family back in November. Their apartment was locked up and Jones had to stay at his father’s house until the situation was resolved.

Jones went to court where his landlord claimed he didn’t know about the CDC’s eviction moratorium. The judge sided with the landlord.

“When these things come down, it should come down with the education, with how this works,” Jones said.

Jones said he received a grant from the state’s HOPE program. It’s dispersed more than $66-million in rent and utility assistance. Jones’ landlord didn’t agree to the state’s terms and rejected the money.

The state’s HOPE program required the following from landlords:

  • Agree not to evict the tenant and end eviction proceedings for non-payment for the remainder of the lease
  • Agree not to increase the rent for the remainder of the lease
  • Agree to maintain a safe and habitable dwelling for the renter
  • Agree not to impose new service fees, charges, penalties, or legal fees on the tenant for the remainder of the lease.

The program’s application process is now closed and the state told CBS 17 in a statement:

“The most recent congressional stimulus package included nearly $700 million for rent and utility assistance for North Carolina, which will allow the state to help even more North Carolinians experiencing financial hardship due to the pandemic. We don’t know yet exactly how those funds will be administered. Governor Cooper will work with legislators to receive federal guidance and appropriate these funds.”

“Before the court, I was told in order (for the landlord) to accept the money, I would have to pay $1,000 cash,” said Jones. He said he didn’t have the money which is why he applied for the state’s program, to begin with.

That’s when he enlisted the help of Legal Aid NC at no cost to him.

Legal Aid NC sued state and county court officials who continued to issue evictions notices this past fall.

“They’re helping families who wouldn’t be able to afford legal representation. Some families can’t afford a lawyer, some families don’t know their rights,” said Jones.

An attorney with Legal Aid NC was able to get Jones into his apartment under the same landlord. Now, he worries about future evictions for people with nowhere to go.

Jesse McCoy, supervising attorney with the Duke Civil Justice Clinic, said some people have been able to get back to work but are still playing catch up from past due bills.

“That eviction judgment is going to hinder your ability to find another place when you’re looking for a prospective landlord to move to,” McCoy said.

A pause on evictions doesn’t erase back rent or keep you out of court at a later date.

“It’s not a matter of not paying your rent that is for January, February. It’s a matter of not being able to catch up with the rent that was due in October, November, December,” said McCoy.

That’s why in the long run, McCoy and Jones said we need a bigger plan to fix the economy because of the interconnections of the pandemic, struggling businesses, and housing struggles.

“We can fix it piece by piece or we can look at it from a macro level and create something that addresses all these problems at once,” he said.

For now, he wants people to know there is help available and there is no shame in asking for help. He encouraged people to reach out to him so they can share resources and information.

“I want to just make sure no one else goes through this. If they’re going through this, let’s get them out of this,” he said.

Protecting yourself from Eviction

To be protected under the CDC’s moratorium, renters must fill out a CDC Declaration form and deliver it to their landlord. Click here for that form.

Tenants must meet the following criteria:

  1. Make less than $99,000 (individual) or $198,000 (if filing jointly), have received a stimulus check, or were not required to report any income for 2019
  2. Show you tried to get government help to pay rent 
  3. Affirm you can’t pay rent due to income loss or extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses 
  4. Affirm you are likely to become homeless if you are evicted 

The moratorium doesn’t cover a hotel, motel, or other guest house rented to a temporary guest or seasonal tenant.

If you need legal assistance through the eviction protection process, Legal Aid NC can be contacted at 1-866-219-5262 or visit www.legalaidnc.org.

People are also encouraged to call 2-1-1 to learn more about resources in their own community.

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