Tenant advocates are bracing for a wave of evictions to begin Monday after the federal eviction moratorium expired over the weekend.
The moratorium temporarily stopped courts from evicting tenants for nonpayment of rent if the tenants were able to present a document stating that they were experiencing a pandemic-related hardship.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put the moratorium in place in September 2020 to stop the spread of the coronavirus. It was extended multiple times before expiring on July 31.
Many evictions that were placed on pause during the moratorium are now set to resume, and staff with Legal Aid NC say they've been overwhelmed with calls from tenants seeking legal help as the deadline neared.
Sean Driscoll, spokesperson for Legal Aid NC, says the nonprofit has been receiving more than 1,000 calls a day, with the vast majority of them housing related.
"We are like the emergency room of the legal world, and the ending of the eviction moratorium is like a mass casualty event," Driscoll said. "It's not much of an exaggeration to say that this is overwhelming us."
According to the U.S. Census Bureau's Household Pulse Survey, 96,047 people in North Carolina said they were likely to face eviction or foreclosure as of July 5.
Attorneys working for Legal Aid NC are trying to connect tenants with rent assistance, or reach settlements with landlords, but attorney Chris Shelburn, who represents many landlords in North Carolina, said the patience of some of his clients has grown thin.
"I think most landlords feel like if you haven't gotten it together by now, then maybe it's not the pandemic, it's that people aren't trying hard enough," he said.
Some of his clients are owed between $10,000 and $15,000, Shelburn said, and some have given up hope of recouping their losses. He said they view eviction as a last resort.
Attorney O'Shauna Hunter with Legal Aid NC said she worries that renters who fell behind due to a lost job or other hardship during the pandemic will end up on the street with a stain on their record.
"These are going to remain on people's rental history and it's going to affect them as they try to get future housing down the line," Hunter said.
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