As the federal eviction moratorium gets new life for another three months, some 80 cases are still in legal limbo at the Hall County courthouse.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky signed an extension to the moratorium, which prevented tenants from being kicked out of their homes when the sole reason is inability to pay. Set to expire Wednesday, March 31, the moratorium now runs through June 30.
The original moratorium was originally in effect from Sept. 4 through the end of 2020 but was extended.
“We were expecting the stay to be lifted and we were prepared to run extra court sessions to address the backlog, but then it got continued,” Chief Magistrate Court Judge Margaret Gregory told The Times earlier this month. “We still have a backlog and that continues to grow.”
In mid December, the number of cases pending in Gregory’s court, known as dispossessories, stood at 65. Now, there are at least 80 cases as of this month.
Gregory said they are still proceeding on any cases that are not affected by the moratorium.
The people covered under this moratorium must fall under all of these conditions:
• The person must earn less than $99,000 in income as a single tax filer or $198,000 as a joint tax filer
• The person is unable to pay the full rent due to being laid off, loss of income, loss of work hours or "extraordinary" out-of-pocket medical expenses
• The person is making "best efforts" to make timely partial payments and to receive any government assistance for rent or housing
• The person would become homeless if evicted because no other housing options are available
Rental assistance program
What: Help for people struggling to pay rent
Contact: Visit hallcounty.org/rentalassistance or call 1-855-718-4630
A tenant seeking protection under the order must present a sworn statement, called a declaration, to the landlord or owner of the residential property, and all adults listed on the lease or rental agreement should complete the declaration.
Hall County announced Wednesday, March 31, it would be opening up applications for an emergency rental assistance program on Tuesday, April 6.
Hall County received $6.15 million as part of the relief package passed by Congress at the end of last year, part of what was known as the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.
“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of Hall County residents have lost their jobs and are having problems paying their monthly rent,” Hall County Board of Commissioners Chairman Richard Higgins said in a statement announcing the program application process. “Hall County’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program will allow us to offer tangible help to tenants at risk of homelessness.”
Dena Bosten, the county’s financial services director, said they did not have an estimate of how many renters or families could be helped by this program, though the county has through the end of September to use the funding.
Eligible households have an income at or below 80% of the area’s median income of $75,500.
The county said in a news release it would prioritize applications for those at or below 50% of the median income and households “where one or more members are currently unemployed and have been for at least 90 days.”
Ninth District Opportunity is handling the rental assistance program for the counties surrounding Hall, including Banks, Dawson, Franklin, Habersham, Hart, Lumpkin, Rabun, Stephens, Towns, Union and White.
Anyone in those counties seeking information should contact the organization at 1-800-822-0179, extension 2026.
Because Hall County was allocated funds directly instead of through an outside agency, the county government is administering the funds.
Attempts to reach Ninth District Opportunity housing/program planner Michael Fisher for comment Wednesday, March 31, were unsuccessful.
Bosten said renters who have qualified for unemployment, experienced a loss of income or sustained other COVID-related hardships are encouraged to apply.
The landlord would provide a signed W-9 form, and there must also be a copy of the lease “and any past due or eviction notices,” according to the news release.
The help for successful applicants can run for 12 months and caps at $12,500, which would be given to the landlord or leasing agent.
When the moratorium is eventually lifted, Gregory said she will proceed with the plan she had back in December to address the backlog. There will be extra court sessions in the morning and afternoons, with five cases per docket to limit the number of people in the courtroom.
Gregory said she had previously requested court space to work on the cases before the moratorium was continued.
“This time, I’m waiting until it actually gets lifted before I schedule that because courtroom space is hard to come by, especially with jury trials about to kick back off. We’re all sort of needing more space than we did before,” she said.