In response to the expiration of a statewide moratorium on eviction cases on June 21, an eviction defense hotline for Spanish-speaking tenants has been established to inform and empower tenants with knowledge of their rights.
The CARES Act Eviction Information Line launched the day after the statewide moratorium expired, and is operated by UNC’s Civil Legal Assistance Clinic and immigration advocacy group Siembra NC.
Kathryn Sabbeth, associate professor of law and director of UNC’s Civil Legal Assistance Clinic, said the hotline is intended to help tenants identify whether their dwellings are protected from eviction under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.
“Not having a house in a moment where we are told to increase our sanitation practices at home and stay home as much as we can is absolutely a public health threat, especially when you take into account the disproportionate impact of COVID on the Latinx population in North Carolina,” Andreina Malki, a research fellow at Siembra NC and a graduate student at UNC, said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Hispanic or Latinx people are four times more likely to be hospitalized because of COVID-19 than non-Hispanic white people.
Sabbeth said landlords in North Carolina are legally permitted to move forward with some evictions at this time, but that a federal moratorium still protects some properties until at least July 25. She said the main categories of protected properties include those participating in certain federal housing programs or those with a federally backed mortgage.
Peter Gilbert, a supervising attorney in the Durham office of Legal Aid of North Carolina who helped create the Eviction Diversion Program, said that even with moratoriums in place, there were still several dozen eviction cases filed in violation of Gov. Roy Cooper’s order and the CARES Act.
“We saw an increase in unlawful evictions taking place outside of the court process where landlords would take it upon themselves to change the locks or shut off utilities without the court process, which is illegal in North Carolina,” Gilbert said.
Sabbeth said tenants have an information disadvantage in determining whether the CARES Act applies to them since they do not necessarily know the landlord’s finances with respect to the property.