The Federal Eviction Ban Ends July 31. Here’s How N.H. Is Preparing For What Comes Next.
Ahead of the federal eviction moratorium's expiration on July 31, more than 9,400 people in New Hampshire applied for the state’s rental assistance program. But less than half of them have received payment as of July 20, according to data provided to NHPR in response to a public records request. About $28.1 million has been disbursed in rental, utility and internet assistance.
The moratorium from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention applied to tenants who incurred significant expenses or suffered financial hardships, directly or indirectly, related to the pandemic.
With the cutoff looming, circuit courts are anticipating an increase in eviction cases, and advocates are spending time going door to door letting people know about the state’s rental assistance program.
Are applications still open for rental, utility or internet assistance?
Tell us what your housing concerns are as we continue to cover the housing crisis in New Hampshire. Find us: email@example.com.
Martin Toe is the housing outreach coordinator with the Granite State Organizing Project. He and a few of his colleagues have spent the past few weeks going door to door in different Manchester neighborhoods letting people know assistance is available.
“We go down one street and we sign up like ten houses, and we haven't covered the whole street,” he says. “The demand is super high [for assistance].”
Toe brings along an iPad to help tenants fill out applications and scan the necessary documents they need to apply (utility bills, W2s, unemployment benefits, tax filings).
How are circuit courts preparing for the coming weeks?
Circuit courts, which hear eviction cases, are expecting new cases will meet or exceed pre-pandemic case loads. Normally, there are about 7,400 eviction cases a year in New Hampshire. But those have gone down by more than a third during the moratorium.
A little more than 700 eviction cases were stayed by the CDC moratorium. David King, the circuit court’s administrative judge, says clerks are working on clarifying the status of those cases. Some may have been resolved through the assistance program. For those that are active, hearings will start in the coming week.
King says the court system is making a push to inform landlords and tenants about the state’s rental assistance program as new eviction cases get underway. He says they’re putting up posters and have postcards to hand out at courthouses, in addition to training the court staff about the rental assistance program.
“We’ve given the judges bench cards with bullet points to discuss with parties,” King adds.
Read more on how a new law may help tenants that are facing an eviction for nonpayment of rent.
The court system implemented a pilot eviction mediation program in the Concord and Claremont courts earlier this year. King says it was successful. Here’s the data he shared about it.
- About 80% of landlords and tenants in 36 cases reached a full agreement.
- Forty-five percent agreements provided for back rent, and an average higher settlement than can be reached through court.
- Tenants who were evicted had, on average, 35 days to leave, compared to the usual seven or eight to vacate.
The circuit court has sent a proposal totaling $725,000 to the Governor’s Office for Emergency Relief and Recovery to expand this pilot into two programs: one focused on possibly diverting eviction cases from the courts across the state, and a second focused on post-filing mediation in Nashua, Manchester and Concord, where the bulk of the state’s landlord-tenant cases are filed.
What are welfare offices and some housing advocates seeing?
Elliott Berry, the Housing Project Director at New Hampshire Legal Assistance, says that he’s anticipating a big spike in initial eviction filings come Aug. 1, but he doesn’t anticipate that will translate into a big spike of people being thrown out.
“Landlords will do that, and still be open to taking the [state rental assistance] money and stopping the eviction if and when they get it,” he says. “But that’s based on some degree of optimism that the people will be able to get the money in a reasonable period of time.”
New Hampshire Housing has indicated that it can take up to eight weeks to process, verify and approve an application.
If a tenant receives an eviction notice after they have applied, and are still waiting for their application to be processed, municipal welfare offices are still available to help people pay their bills, including rent.
Who’s applied for housing assistance?
About two-thirds of the 9,400 people who have applied for rental assistance since the program opened in March are women. While NH Housing says it doesn’t have more granular data about the women who have applied, and what percentage are head of households, state and national economic data demonstrate that women have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.