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NH courts say evictions to proceed in Grafton, Sullivan counties

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 8/4/2021 2:23:52 PM
Modified: 8/5/2021 3:48:59 PM

WEST LEBANON — The Biden administration’s extended ban on evictions in parts of the country with “substantial and high levels” of coronavirus transmission doesn’t appear to cover the Upper Valley, where fewer COVID-19 cases are being reported.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday issued an evictions moratorium, extending one that had lapsed on Sunday.

The order, which is expected to cover 90% of the nation’s population, cites the “trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic” and the rise of the delta variant as reason to pause court proceedings. It expires Oct. 3.

However, both Sullivan and Grafton counties in New Hampshire and Orange and Windsor counties in Vermont are listed as seeing “moderate” transmission — reporting 10 to 50 cases per 100,000 people — according to the CDC’s dashboard.

To reach “substantial transmission,” the next-highest level, the counties would need to report 50 new cases per 100,000 people within the last seven days.

The New Hampshire court system said in a news release Wednesday that it is pausing eviction proceedings for three of the Granite State’s most heavily populated counties — Hillsborough, Rockingham and Strafford — but made clear they would continue on the New Hampshire side of the Upper Valley.

“At this time, all other courts will continue processing and holding hearings in all landlord-tenant cases,” the state Judicial Branch said in a news release.

Other counties could be added to that list, though. The CDC’s order says that counties that later experience substantial or high levels of transmission would also come under the ban.

Likewise, the order would no longer apply to counties where cases drop to the moderate level for 14 consecutive days.

“One of the bizarre things about this is it literally can change from day to day,” said Elliott Berry, an attorney with New Hampshire Legal Assistance.

Berry said that attorneys and housing advocates will likely be checking the CDC data every day to try to determine if and where the moratorium is in effect. For renters in those places, he said, the order is a “blessing.”

Although New Hampshire hasn’t yet seen a wave of new eviction orders, Berry said, courts have started to reschedule hearings that were put on hold over the past year.

Advocates and progressives who lobbied the Biden administration for the eviction ban said it could prevent 3.6 million Americans from losing their homes.

And in New Hampshire, more than 3,500 applications for emergency rental assistance were still being proceeded last week, according to the Governor’s Office for Emergency Relief and Recovery.

“This gives us all a chance to make sure that everyone who is eligible for emergency rental assistance applies and gets that money,” Berry said.

It’s unclear what impacts the moratorium will have on Vermont’s court system. Messages and emails requesting comment weren’t returned Wednesday.

While Upper Valley courts aren’t included in the ban, officials are working to help people facing eviction, said Circuit Court Clerk Pam Kozlowski, who oversees the Lebanon and North Haverhill circuit courts.

Whenever someone facing a nonpayment of rent case comes to the window, officials are instructed to hand out a card that outlines how to apply for rental assistance, she said.

“The circuit court is pretty aggressively letting people know that there’s rent assistance out there,” Kozlowski said while pointing to a green flyer in the Lebanon courthouse that also provides instructions.

The clerk said she also has mail-in applications for assistance with prepaid postage.

“It’s really a win-win,” she said. “The landlord’s happy because they’re getting paid, and the tenant is happy because they get to stay.”

So far, New Hampshire has awarded $29.8 million in emergency rental assistance since March 15. About $1.9 million has gone to Grafton County residents, while nearly $1.1 million was directed to Sullivan County.

Overall, the Granite State has received $180 million in federal stimulus dollars for renters.

In Vermont, about $11.8 million in rental assistance has been allocated, with Windsor County seeing $968,000 of that and Orange County residents getting $273,180.

New Hampshire residents seeking emergency rental assistance can call 211 or go to capnh.org.

Vermont renters can apply for assistance at erap.vsha.org or by calling 833-488-3727.

Tim Camerato can be reached at tcamerato@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.

Correction

Elliott Berry is the managing attorney and co-director of the Housing Justice Project at New Hampshire Legal Assistance. His last name was misspelled in an earlier version of this story.




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