By Nathan Ham
As the federal eviction moratorium quietly ended at the end of July, so did the federal unemployment benefits that were keeping food on the table and a roof over many peoples’ heads. While Congress has been slow to act to extend any federal benefits, with rent coming due for many Americans on September 1, many landlords are expected to proceed with eviction notices against renters who cannot pay their bills.
Watauga County does not have a local eviction moratorium in place according to Boone Town Manager John Ward, and there have been concerns that even if a local town council did enact an eviction moratorium, it would not stand legal challenges from landlords seeking their rent payments.
The Apartment Association of North Carolina (AANC) has been advocating for renters and educating them on their rights as the moratorium came to a close. According to a provision in the CARES Act, the earliest an eviction notice can be filed would be August 25, or 30 days after a notice to vacate was issued. July 26 was the earliest date that a notice to vacate could be filed by a landlord.
Also, renters that could not pay their rent between May 30 and June 20 have until December 21, 2020, to pay that month of rent and are allowed to make those rent payments over a six-month repayment period with no late fee charges allowed. Renters are allowed 10 days from the day of an eviction judgment to file an appeal.
Concerns of increasing homelessness and poverty with the end of the federal eviction moratorium are being felt across the country. According to the most recent data provided by Hospitality House of Northwest North Carolina at the end of 2019, poverty rates in the region were six percent higher (23.6 percent) than the state average (17.4) percent. Watauga County had the highest number with 31.4 percent of the population living in poverty. Wilkes County had 23.3 percent, Yancey County had 21.7 percent, Ashe County had 20.7 percent, Mitchell had 19.5 percent, Alleghany had 18.4 percent and Avery County had 15.4 percent. The 2019 point-in-time homelessness count in Northwest NC showed a total of 417 homeless people, including 110 children under the age of 18.
As a reminder, free legal advice and counsel is available for renters by calling 1-866-219-5262 or applying online at www.legalaidnc.org.