Written by BRYAN ANDERSON
Six North Carolina Republican officials voted on Tuesday to end statewide eviction protections for tenants from Thursday, rejecting Democratic Governor Roy Cooper’s request to extend the moratorium by one month on state evictions.
The Cooper administration warns the Republicans’ move is likely to inject even more chaos and confusion for landlords and tenants. Critics note that North Carolina’s policies will stop aligning with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recently extended its national moratorium on evictions until July 31.
Either way, qualifying tenants in North Carolina will be able to stay in their units until the end of July.
“The governor has nothing to do with the CDC order continuing to apply to North Carolinians,” said Sean Driscoll, spokesperson for Legal Aid of North Carolina. “There will be no mass evictions until August 1 because the CDC order will still be in place and apply.”
The non-profit law firm assists low-income tenants facing eviction.
Tuesday’s decision by the North Carolina State Council, which has been divided among parties, is likely to increase the number of evictions, especially for tenants with less income, less understanding of how to file a claim for protection against federal evictions and a lack of awareness of state and local rent relief programs.
Beginning Thursday, landlords will no longer be required to give tenants they seek to evict a copy of a CDC website form advising them of their right not to be evicted solely because of non-payment of the rent. North Carolinians can still be evicted for reasons unrelated to non-payment of rent, such as destruction of property.
North Carolina’s eviction protections are expected to expire on Wednesday. For months, they reinforced the CDC moratorium by requiring landlords to hand over the CDC form to tenants they seek to evict.
It will also soon be easier for landlords to evict people who may still be navigating the Housing Opportunities and Eviction Prevention (HOPE) process. The program helps residents of 88 small counties across the state pay their rent or utility bills. Twelve large counties operate similar assistance programs. Republicans and Democrats want more people to take advantage of the $ 1.3 billion in rent and utility assistance that remains largely unused.
“It is disappointing to see members of the Council of State revoke eviction protections for people who still struggle to stay at home,” Cooper said in a statement. “Many North Carolina residents still need help and we will ensure that landlords adhere to the CDC’s eviction moratorium and tenants can access county rent assistance and utilities and of the state’s HOPE program. “
Many Republicans and homeowners’ advocacy groups believe the moratorium has been in place for too long. They argue that the original intent of the moratorium on evictions was to limit the spread of COVID-19. As vaccines are now widely available, they find the moratorium unnecessary.
State Treasurer Dale Folwell backed Cooper’s original order in May 2020 to stop the evictions, but has since opposed efforts to extend the statewide moratorium. He sees a bigger problem with housing supply and affordability fueled by lower vacancy rates.
âThis policy was originally an act of COVID and it became an act of the state, and I think it hindered and prevented people from being able to rent,â Folwell said in an interview.
He noted that other states have ended their moratoriums on deportations. He called Tuesday’s vote to end the state moratorium directive “a step back to normal.”
The North Carolina Association of Realtors had urged Cooper to allow the statewide standstill order to expire and were delighted that Republican members of the State Council had decided to end it.
“It is time to allow housing providers to participate in the economic recovery that has been offered to so many other struggling industries,” the group said in a statement.
Residents of North Carolina facing eviction and not knowing if they can stay in their homes until July 31 can call 800-569-4287 for housing advice. To qualify for federal eviction protections, tenants must have earned less than $ 99,000 in 2020 or expect to earn less than that amount this year. The income threshold for those who file their taxes jointly is $ 198,000. Renters may also be eligible to stay in their unit if they have received a stimulus check or if they have not been required to report their income to the Internal Revenue Service.
In addition, those seeking eviction protection should check that they cannot pay their rent in full or pay their accommodation in full because their household income has fallen dramatically, which they have been laid off, that their working hours or wages have been reduced, or that they have medical costs out of your pocket.
Photo via North Carolina Department of Public Safety.