Reprieve for renters ends as Mecklenburg County starts eviction trials this week

CHARLOTTE — For the first time since the pandemic started, Mecklenburg County judges will hear eviction cases.

But, the courts are giving people who couldn’t pay rent during the crisis a little more time and some extra help keep a roof over their heads by starting with cases that were already going on before the pandemic, which could take a while.

Then it will handle cases since the pandemic started -- cases like Katie Powell’s. She told Action 9 that she had been out of work from March until recently because of the pandemic.

“I’m working, barely,” Powell said.

Her court papers claim she owes more than $3,000.

“So, I’m trying to find another place for me and my kids,” Powell said.

If your landlord has a federally-backed mortgage -- like Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac -- and wants to evict you for not paying rent, he or she has to wait until July 27. And then you have to be given a 30-day notice, so you probably wouldn’t go to trial until September at the earliest.

Channel 9 has reported in the past about how the court is sending landlords and tenants flyers about a mediation program with nonprofits helping to pay rent.

“You got the [Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing] Partnership, Crisis Assistance [Ministry] -- between the two now, you have about $6.2 million that they want to give out. They want to keep the tenants under roof,” Jim Surane said.

Surane used to be a magistrate over landlord-tenant cases. Now, he represents landlords.

“The funds are real,” Surane told Action 9. “They’re there. First come, first served. So, they’re going to go quickly.”

“I was in the courtroom and as the judge was ruling, she would look at me and say, ‘Is this someone you can help?’” said Carol Hardison, who is the CEO of Crisis Assistance Ministry.

Hardison said since the start of COVID-19, she and other agencies have been preparing for this day.

They have met with judges and legal aid to discuss possible mediation options for renters and landlords.

They have also raised money to help people, who fell behind on their rent during the pandemic.

Many people, who were in court Monday, were already having problems paying rent prior to COVID-19.

“These were people who had a setback in January and February, but now they owe five, six, seven thousand dollars worth of rent, because they were later impacted by COVID-19. These people have a huge stress on them right now,” Hardison said.

If you owed rent between May 30 and June 20, your landlord has to give you at least six months to pay it.

And this is an important point: Most of this information is for renters who face eviction because they didn’t pay rent. If you face eviction for another reason -- for example, you broke the lease’s rules about criminal activity or you don’t have a lease (known as a “holdover”) -- you don’t get these protections.

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