Lynn Foster, the UA Little Rock law professor who has made a life’s work of trying to improve the lot of renters in Arkansas, has provided her monthly report on the state of evictions during the pandemic.
Evictions dropped in October compared with both September and October last year. A moratorium on evictions of people in housing supported by federal money, where a declaration required under the Centers for Disease Control rule is filed, and a small state rental assistance program may have contributed.
But the report says there’s still uneven handling in the courts of eviction proceedings. Long-term, she concludes, more needs to be done.
In the meanwhile, the stories compiled from court filings are wrenching. Here’s one of many you can find at the link to Foster’s report:
Pulaski County. This is an example of an outcome in the court of a judge who regularly orders writs of possession to be issued against tenants who have not paid the deposit, even if the opposing counsel asks for a hearing. Here is the tenant’s reply in September to the complaint filed against her:
“I have two children that I am a single mother to. I do not receive any child support or any assistance due to the pandemic I have had a hard time making ends meet with my bills I lost my second job and my hours are cut on my first job. My current bills are my car note $500 monthly which I am behind on, but they are working with me and my light bill is $113. I have been constantly looking for better and full time working because I am having such a hard time I have no place to go with my children my
family is out of state is doing bad as well and unable to help me at this moment. I was recently hired full time working from home and will be making $15 hourly [the tenant attached the job offer letter]. I will receive my 401k from my previous employer at the beginning of November when I can pay for the months that I owe and all other fees. I don’t have any where for me and my children to go. Can you please give me a chance to try and get caught up I’m sorry for the inconveniences.”
The judge ordered a writ of possession to be issued because she did not pay into the court registry. Two days later the landlord’s attorney asked for a hearing. No hearing was ever held, and instead three weeks after the judge’s order the writ of possession was issued by the court clerk. It does not appear to have been served. But the tenant would have received notice of the judge’s order and the writ’s issuance.
A review of eviction cases reveals reluctance by many landlords to allow tenants to catch up with bank rent owed. Unfortunately, this situation will worsen as the pandemic worsens unless the moratorium becomes broader or more rent assistance becomes available.