New eviction moratorium seen as effort to prevent homelessness in New Hampshire
CDC order offers protections until Dec. 31
A new federal eviction moratorium could help Granite Staters who are unable to pay rent or are at risk for homelessness.
The new moratorium, issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Protection, covers all types of evictions and tenants in all types of housing and does not strictly apply to pandemic-related hardships. It expires Dec. 31, when tenants must pay all previously unpaid rent.
“In halting evictions, the order will help many people stay in their homes and avoid exposure to Covid-19 in homeless shelters or on the street,” said Elliott Berry, co-director of New Hampshire Legal Assistance’s Housing Justice Project. “However, this does not absolve tenants from paying rent, and does not address what will happen to people on Jan. 1, when their unpaid rent is due. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is that tenants who are having trouble paying their rent pay as much as they can afford and apply for rental assistance as soon as possible.”
Unlike the governor’s previous eviction ban, eligible tenants must sign a declaration form to give to their landlord, certifying – among other requirements – that they have already applied for rental or housing assistance. In New Hampshire, that means through town and city welfare or local community action programs.
“I think it’s really important that renters who are having difficulty understand that … the form isn’t like walking up to an ATM machine and pulling out a get-out-of-rent-free card. You have to certify that everything in the declaration is true,” said Stephanie Bray, Foreclosure Relief Project Director and a managing attorney at New Hampshire Legal Assistance.
Since the state’s eviction ban ended July 1, landlord-tenant writs – the first legal step in the eviction process – have increased, according to circuit court numbers. In the week before the ban ended, 41 landlord tenant writ cases had been filed statewide. They spiked to 193 by the week of Aug. 10, but went back down to 120 last week.
Last month, Gov. Sununu vetoed House Bill 1247, which would have offered tenants a six-month repayment plan for rent payments that were missed during the coronavirus, and clarified that tenants would not need an eviction notice in order to file for welfare assistance.
In a veto message, Sununu wrote that the bill “adds a major structural problem to an already precarious housing environment.”
According to Bray, under the new federal moratorium, tenants can use the new declaration at any step of the eviction process.
“We would maintain that it can be used up until the sheriff arrives at your door,” she said.
“It is apparent from reading the entirety of the order that the CDC is concerned about making people homeless during a pandemic,” Bray added. “I cannot imagine that the CDC is going to be less concerned about making people homeless in a pandemic in January.”
Those unable to afford rent payments should first apply for assistance at CAPnh.orgor through their local town or city welfare office before signing a declaration form. For legal assistance, visit nhlegalaid.org.
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