North Dakota landlords filed more than 2,427 evictions in 2020.
Rich LeMay with non-profit Legal Services of North Dakota says that’s the third-highest number in the last decade. 175 more filings have already been made in 2021.
LeMay says evictions are hitting the working poor the hardest, those that make just enough not to qualify for benefits but still work paycheck-to-paycheck. He says the pandemic cut down work hours for many, making rent tough, if not impossible to pay.
Lemay adds, the CDC’s eviction moratorium (now extended through March) at least keeps a roof over peoples’ heads, but it’s tough to even find the form and fill it out. And then, it’s up to the courts to decide to uphold it or not.
He says the state’s Rent Bridge program has been the best source of help, but it’s also unclear what people need to do to qualify or sign up. Legal Services calls the number for the program often to help clients facing eviction but LeMay says, the phone just rings and rings with no answer.
“There are just all kinds of obstacles, you know. And so really, is it protection, or is it just something to make everybody feel good?” said the Legal Services Executive Director.
“We haven’t heard the governor come out and say anything. The chief of the supreme court hasn’t really said anything. Does the court not have some kind of a civic obligation to say, ‘Have you filled out the CDC moratorium?'”
LeMay adds some state judges have been helping tenants.
On the flip side, he says some larger landlords are likely accessing aid, through PPP loans, but evictions are still happening.