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Aid Groups Fighting Loopholes in Eviction Moratorium

Since a national eviction moratorium took effect in September, a legal-assistance group in North Dakota says it has received nearly a dozen requests to help in landlord-tenant disputes. (Adobe Stock)
Since a national eviction moratorium took effect in September, a legal-assistance group in North Dakota says it has received nearly a dozen requests to help in landlord-tenant disputes. (Adobe Stock)
October 6, 2020

BISMARCK, N.D. -- It's been a month since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention drafted an eviction moratorium under orders from President Donald Trump. But a North Dakota assistance group says there are cases where landlords still might try to evict someone facing a hardship.

The moratorium is aimed at protecting renters from being forced from their home after similar measures expired, including one under the CARES Act. If they meet certain criteria, a person can't be evicted until the end of the year.

But Adele Page, deputy director at Legal Services of North Dakota, said they've since seen cases where the tenant was facing qualified hardship, but minor violations were used as an excuse.

"The person's applied for assistance, she meets all of the qualifications, and the landlord's trying to evict her for excessive dog feces in the yard and alleged damage to a post from a dog," Page said.

She said an inspection of the post didn't find any damage. Page attributes this to the guidelines being vague. She said they should state only serious violations should be considered in cases where there's still a hardship.

Legal observers say because these hearings are held in lower-level courts, there will be a variety of rulings; meaning some renters will be spared, while others won't.

Page said the best thing people in this situation can do is to gather and provide as much required documentation as possible, while doing their best to be model tenants. She warned the national moratorium doesn't stop back rent and late fees from piling up.

"I am encouraging folks to do as much as they can to get as much paid, to look for other assistance so that they're not in a hole, and that we don't have an onslaught of evictions on Jan. 1," she said.

One of the key documents needed is a declaration page where a renter can formally state there are legitimate reasons for falling behind, and they're attempting to secure aid. That form can be found on the CDC website.

Disclosure: Legal Services of North Dakota contributes to our fund for reporting on Health Issues, Native American Issues, Poverty Issues, Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Mike Moen, Public News Service - ND