Hundreds of renters in New Hampshire have received eviction notices over the past month, even after a new eviction moratorium took effect on Sept. 4, state court data show.
As Families In Transition-New Horizons staff meet people experiencing homelessness in their Manchester shelter and in encampments around the city, “we continue to see new faces,” said Megan Shea, the organization’s chief program officer.
Evictions from apartments and rooming houses were low while the state had an eviction moratorium, which ended in early July. The week of March 30 saw the fewest evictions so far this year. That week, just one New Hampshire landlord filed to evict a tenant. Until late June, fewer than 20 tenants got “landlord tenant writs,” the legal document that starts a court eviction proceeding.
Between July and September, the number of landlord tenant writs filed each week grew, according to data collected by the state’s court system.
A new moratorium on evictions, imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, took effect Sept. 4. But the new moratorium does not automatically apply to all renters.
To qualify, renters have to give their landlords a signed declaration form, attesting that they are making their best efforts to pay rent or find rental assistance, and that an eviction would likely result in them becoming homeless. The declaration form is considered sworn testimony, and renters who lie on the form can face fines or jail.
Even with this eviction ban in place, the number of evictions statewide is back up to where it was before the beginning of the pandemic. Most weeks since August have seen about 100 eviction proceedings begun in the state. The week of Aug. 10, almost 200 landlord tenant writs were filed in courts across New Hampshire.
Elliot Berry, an attorney with New Hampshire Legal Aid who specializes in housing issues, said so far, the CDC’s eviction moratorium has kept people in their homes.
“By and large, the moratorium has had its desired effect,” Berry said.
But some landlords want to see more people evicted. Debbie Valente, president of the New Hampshire Property Owners’ Association, said she does not believe that most people getting evicted now are truly struggling because of pandemic-related job losses or cuts in their hours.
“People that pay their rent pay their rent,” Valente said. “People that don’t pay their rent, and are always giving us trouble, are just finding COVID-19 an excuse.”
Valente said she wants problematic tenants to be held accountable through evictions. She said she’s bothered by the idea that landlords trying to get rent this year are taking blood from a stone.
“Most landlords are in the business of renting property — we’re in business,” Valente said.
Shea said she is worried about what will happen Dec. 31, when the CDC’s eviction moratorium ends.
Other states, including Massachusetts, are considering extending their own eviction moratoriums. Vermont’s state Legislature passed a law that will keep the eviction ban in place for 30 days after Gov. Phil Scott’s state of emergency ends — and Vermont’s state of emergency has been extended through Oct. 15.
But even with aid for renters and longer bans on evictions, Shea noted that the housing shortage in southern New Hampshire is still very much present. Even when people have a little money, there isn’t always an apartment available.
“That continues to be a major barrier,” Shea said.