The Covid-19 safety nets are gone. Now a flood of evictions is here

The Covid-19 safety nets are gone. Now a flood of evictions is here

August 2, 2020 0 By administrator
The New Hanover County Courthouse is busier than usual handling eviction cases, expected to continue hitting the courtroom as ejectment moratoriums expire. (Port City Daily photo/Mark Darrough)

SOUTHEASTERN, N.C. — After months of reprieve, local, statewide, and federal protections that would stop evictions from proceeding are nearly completely gone as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

The economic support networks put in place but state and federal governments all seem to be disappearing at once: the statewide utility disconnection moratorium expired Wednesday at midnight; the statewide eviction moratorium expired June 20; the federal eviction moratorium expired last Friday; federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) ended Saturday.

Related: With no extension filed, eviction proceedings to continue in N.C. [Free]

The economy is rebounding but still bruised. Back down from the all-time high 14.7% unemployment rate in April, unemployment is steadying, at 7.6% in North Carolina in June. That’s still higher than the pre-Covid-19 unemployment average, between 3.5 and 4.4% —

That rate could still climb again, as businesses, in particular, continue to struggle with making ends meet. Add to that fears of a second wave of Covid-19 — or the continuation of the current wave — and uncertainty over whether a second round of federal Paycheck Protection Program loans, which have helped to keep many employees on the payroll, will be included in upcoming federal relief packages.

Last week, the N.C. Department of Employment Security received 61,794 new unemployment claims, averaging about 8,800 new claims a day.

Busy courtrooms

While the economy works to rebound from the coronavirus, courtrooms are flooding with eviction proceedings as government protections are lifted.

In New Hanover County, two magistrates and courtrooms have been dedicated to eviction proceedings since mid-July; under normal circumstances, there’d just be one.

Housing advocates describe the wave of eviction paperwork as a crisis already in progress. For landlords, the ability to collect rent and replace nonpaying renters with tenants able to pay could help stabilize a shaky marketplace.

Wilmington attorney Addison Palanza, who specializes in landlord-tenant law and represents both sides, said the recently-lifted eviction protections were at first a helpful Band-Aid. “For many of your average folks, that was a boom. That helped them get through this time,” he said. “But what we have in this reality is there’s a burden on everyone in the chain.”

The chain includes renters at the bottom, then landlords, then creditors. When one segment of the chain stops paying, it impacts the entire system.  

“It’s harder to be sympathetic to a bank than to a human being. The reality, however, is when we’re zoomed out at this 30,000-foot level, the burden has to be borne by someone,” he said.

“This is a pretty serious…

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