Can't make rent during COVID-19 outbreak? Here's what you need to know in Wake and Durham counties

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Eviction hearings in North Carolina are halted during the coronavirus pandemic.

It's up to each county sheriff whether to move forward with eviction orders already in place.

The sheriffs of Wake County and Durham County have said their offices are not evicting people right now.

"Both personally and professionally, I have a problem with evicting someone, putting them out in the middle of this crisis, in the middle of this virus," Wake County Sheriff Gerald Baker said.

Durham County Sheriff Clarence Birkhead said in a statement: "No one has been evicted into a homeless situation as a result of recent orders."

Active court cases are being continued.

"I am ordering that most district and superior court cases be continued for at least 30 days with some limited exceptions," North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley said on March 13.

This order includes eviction hearings and is in response to the coronavirus emergency.

Attorney Peter Gilbert supervises the eviction diversion program for Legal Aid of North Carolina.

"This doesn't resolve the cases," Gilbert said. "What it means is that in April or whenever, we're going to have an avalanche of eviction cases. I suspect it will be made even worse by the fact that so many people are losing wages right now, losing work right now."

Seth Friedman is the CEO of Passage Home, which owns affordable housing units in Wake County. He agrees with Gilbert.

"The rent payments are not being forgiven but deferred," Friedman said. "So what's going to happen at the end of 30 days, 60 days, 90 days, whenever this moratorium on evictions is removed, low-income families will be asked to pay several months of rent at one time. So what we'll see at the end of this moratorium is an eviction spike and an increase of homelessness."

Gilbert said it's good that eviction hearings are halted right now but that it won't solve the problem.

"Nothing in any of these orders prevents landlords from filing new evictions so new eviction cases are being filed during this period," Gilbert said.

Friedman said halting evictions is best at this time.

"We have to think of this from a business side too and landlords and businesses that aren't able to pay their mortgages or their commercial loans will face their own repercussions," Friedman said. "However, we need to think of this as a societal effort. We can't just kick people out on the street right now while there is a public health crisis going on."

According to the Eviction Lab website, there are 13 evictions a day in Wake County.
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