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Durham Housing Evictions Halted in COVID-19 Crisis

According to researchers at Duke University, more than 200,000 evictions have been filed in Durham County since 2000. (Adobe Stock)
According to researchers at Duke University, more than 200,000 evictions have been filed in Durham County since 2000. (Adobe Stock)
March 18, 2020

DURHAM, N.C. -- The chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court has halted all eviction proceedings for 30 days, as many North Carolina residents face layoffs and lost income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On average, said Elizabeth Simpson, associate director of the group Emancipate NC, 27 people are evicted every day in Durham County, often in crowded courtrooms. She stressed that the pause only applies to new eviction cases.

"New evictions that are being filed now will not be heard in the courts for at least 30 days," she said, "per the order of the chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court."

A report by the Durham Human Relations Commission called it a "crisis," as renters in the county saw more than 10,000 eviction filings a year in 2016 and 2017. Simpson said Durham County's eviction rate is highest in the state and double the national average.

Evictions often lead to homelessness, which experts say could exacerbate public health concerns as cities work to curb community spread of the new coronavirus. Simpson said anyone who already has received an eviction order by a court faces a different situation, unless Gov. Roy Cooper decides to step in.

"The sheriff is compelled by statute to actually enforce that order and lock people out of their homes, and so that could be happening right now," she said, "and Roy Cooper is the person who has the power to stop that."

Statewide, she said, Duke Energy has announced it is suspending service disconnections for North Carolina households. In Durham, there's also a moratorium on water shut-offs.

The action from the North Carolina Supreme Court is online at nccourts.gov, the Durham HRC report is at durhamnc.gov, and more information on Emancipate NC is at emancipatenc.org.

Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - NC