As CDC Eviction Moratorium Ends, New Hampshire Circuit Court Takes Steps to Increase Awareness of Emergency Rental Assistance
Concord, NH – The New Hampshire Circuit Court, which handles eviction cases in the state, is preparing for the end of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s moratorium on certain residential evictions by taking steps to increase awareness of the availability of emergency rental assistance among landlords and tenants.
Since the start of the moratorium in September 2020, the Circuit Court has seen a substantial decrease in the number of evictions filed in the state. With the moratorium now scheduled to end on July 31, 2021, the Circuit Court is preparing to restart eviction cases that were put on hold before a judgment was issued by the moratorium and expects to hold hearings in most cases that were paused by the moratorium by August 11, 2021. In cases which were paused after a judgment was issued, the Court will begin issuing Writs of Possession (the formal order allowing the sheriff to remove a tenant) on August 2, 2021. Additionally, the Court expects that new eviction filings will quickly meet or exceed pre-pandemic norms, as landlords who held off starting an eviction due to the moratorium begin filing cases.
In response to the anticipated rise in eviction cases, the Circuit Court has been collaborating with New Hampshire Housing, which administers the New Hampshire Emergency Rental Assistance Program (NHERAP), and the Governor’s Office for Emergency Relief and Recovery (GOFERR), on ways the Court can help increase awareness of NHERAP and encourage landlords and tenants to work together on an application. NHERAP is a $200 million, federally-funded rental assistance program which can pay for up to a total of fifteen months of back and future rent and other housing related expenses for qualifying tenants. Landlords can start the application for assistance on behalf of tenants and are paid directly by NHERAP if the tenant is approved. The Circuit Court, New Hampshire Housing, and GOFERR worked together to develop informational materials that the Court will provide to landlords and tenants throughout an eviction case.
The steps for increasing awareness of NHERAP announced today by the Circuit Court are:
- Changes to court forms, including the Eviction Notice and Demand for Rent, to alert landlords and tenants to the availability of NHERAP.
- Posting informational signs advertising the availability of NHERAP in all Circuit Court locations.
- Distributing informational postcards regarding NHERAP every time a landlord or tenant files or responds to a residential eviction case.
- Placing information about NHERAP in courtrooms where eviction cases are heard.
- Providing information about NHERAP on the Court’s website.
- Offering training to judges and staff on the requirements and benefits of NHERAP and ensuring that all staff involved in processing eviction cases are able to refer landlords and tenants to more information about the program.
Explaining why the Circuit Court decided to encourage landlords and tenants to utilize the program, Circuit Court Administrative Judge David King said, “Unlike most court cases, where only one side can prevail, this is a win-win-win situation. It’s a win for tenants who are able to stay in their homes. It’s a win for landlords who receive the money they are owed, often in amounts far beyond what the Court could award as a judgment. And it’s a win for the community by reducing housing instability and avoiding the myriad of negative consequences that often go along with an eviction. As New Hampshire’s community court, we felt that it was our responsibility to help spread the word about this program.”
“Thanks to successful partnerships all across the state we have been able to provide over $28M in relief to over 4000 Granite State households to date,” said Commissioner Taylor Caswell, Executive Director of the Governor’s Office for Emergency Relief and Recovery (GOFERR). “We very much appreciate the New Hampshire Circuit Court working with us to connect Granite State families impacted by COVID-19 with the resources provided by the NHERAP program.”
“The NH Circuit Court has an important role in helping get the word out about this program to eligible tenants and landlords who have been impacted by COVID-19,” noted Dean Christon, Executive Director of New Hampshire Housing. “The program has helped more than 4,000 renter households and their landlords so far, and has been an important resource in avoiding displacement of families who have been hard-hit by the pandemic.”
Judge King went on to explain that, while the Court strongly encourages landlords and tenants who may be eligible for Program to cooperate on applying, an application to the Program does not automatically halt an eviction. Instead, Judge King emphasized that if a tenant is served with a Landlord and Tenant Writ (the document which formally starts an eviction case in court) by the sheriff, the tenant must file an Appearance form with the Circuit Court hearing the case, letting the court know that the tenant wants to participate in the case. The tenant also must appear in court for any scheduled hearing. If the tenant fails to file an appearance or come to court for a hearing, the judge may order the tenant to be evicted without hearing from him or her, even if the tenant has applied for rental assistance. If landlords or tenants are in the process of applying for rental assistance, they should notify the court and may file a motion requesting that the eviction hearing be continued to allow them to complete the application process.
To learn more about NHERAP and to start an application, landlords and tenant can go to CAPNH.org or call 2-1-1 to be connected to their local Community Action Program, which will process their application.
Landlords and tenants whose cases were paused prejudgment by the moratorium should watch for a hearing notice in the mail and attend any schedule hearing. Landlords and tenants with questions about their specific case can call the Court’s Information Center at 1-855-212-1234. For more information about landlord and tenant cases generally, parties can visit the Circuit Court’s landlord and tenant website at: https://www.courts.state.nh.us/district/landlord.htm.
Low-income individuals who may need legal advice or assistance should contact 603 Legal Aid at: https://nhlegalaid.org/get-help or 1-800-639-5290 (weekdays, 9 AM – 1 PM).