Non-payment evictions begin Friday in Bernalillo County
Cases haven’t spiked in court ahead of the moratorium lifting, though they still could, expert explains
Demonstrators calling for an end to all evictions and the cancelation of rent debt listen to speakers outside the Metropolitan Court in Downtown Albuquerque in late September 2021. (Photo by Marisa Demarco / Source NM)
Evictions of people who can’t make rent will be allowed again in New Mexico’s most populous county on Friday for the first time in more than two years.
It’s the end of the ban on evictions for tenants behind in rent, one that the New Mexico Supreme Court imposed in March 2020 as a way to prevent the coronavirus pandemic and ensuing economic meltdown from leading to mass evictions into crowded homeless shelters.
When and where the New Mexico eviction ban will end
Starting April 1
- Bernalillo County
- Chaves County
- Eddy County
- Lea County
- DeBaca County
- Harding County
- Quay County
- Lincoln County
- Otero County
Starting May 1
- Doña Ana County
- Grant County
- Hidalgo County
- Luna County
- Catron County
- Sierra County
- Socorro County
Starting June 1
- Los Alamos County
- Rio Arriba County
- Santa Fe County
- Mora County
- Guadalupe County
- San Miguel County
- Colfax County
- Taos County
- Union County
Starting July 1
- McKinley County
- San Juan County
- Cibola County
- Sandoval County
- Valencia County
Citing improving job numbers and declining case counts, the Supreme Court decided to lift the ban and set up a new Eviction Prevention and Diversion Program, one that they hope will stave off evictions by connecting tenants and landlords with mediators, and with the Emergency Rental Assistance Program’s $170 million in emergency rent payments.
The court later amended its order to phase out the eviction ban across the state over the next few months, citing low awareness of the emergency rent fund and concerns about whether court staff and legal organizations would be able to handle a potential surge in eviction cases.
While non-payment eviction cases were stemmed during the moratorium, landlords could still legally evict tenants by ending the lease agreement, for example, or illegally by changing locks or shutting off utilities.
On Friday, judges will again hear non-payment eviction cases in Bernalillo County, along with Chaves, Eddy, Lea, DeBaca, Harding, Quay, Lincoln and Otero counties. The rest of the state will follow in the next few months.
Landlords might have previously attempted to evict a tenant in court for non-payment and even convinced a judge that an eviction was worthy, though the Supreme Court order negated any eviction order filed. Those landlords will have to file for eviction again, according to the new Supreme Court order.
There are about 40 eviction hearings scheduled at Metropolitan Court in Albuquerque for Friday, though it does not yet appear that landlords are scrambling to evict tenants now that the stay is lifted.
Neither Eviction Lab at Princeton University nor NMEvictions.org, two sites that scrape and analyze eviction data, have detected spikes in eviction filings in Albuquerque, according to their websites.
It’s not clear when or if a spike in evictions could happen, experts told Source New Mexico, and they had a couple theories as to why Albuquerque isn’t seeing one yet.
For one, landlords stymied in their efforts to evict for non-payment might have found another way over the last two years, said University of New Mexico law professor Serge Martinez. Or they might be waiting to see how the new process works.
“Anybody who has been trying to get rid of a tenant has had lots and lots of different opportunities over the last two years, and the moratorium was not really keeping that many people in place at this late stage of the game,” Martinez said.
And perhaps emergency rental assistance funds are finally making it out the door, keeping landlords paid and tenants housed, Martinez said.
“There’s not going to be this buildup that is released when the moratorium is lifted, because all that pressure has slowly and slowly leaked over the last two years,” he said.
Thomas Prettyman, a housing attorney for New Mexico Legal Aid, also said it’s possible landlords are waiting until April 1 to file, though the order does not appear to require them to do so.
There also has not been a spike in evictions in Curry and Roosevelt Counties since February, according to the Eviction Lab. Those were the two counties where the ban was lifted first as part of a pilot program.
Barry Massey, a spokesperson for the state Administrative Office of the Courts, also said officials could not begin to speculate whether there will be a surge on evictions.
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How non-payment evictions work
When a landlord notifies a tenant that he or she is three days behind on rent, a tenant has three days to pay up to avoid being evicted in court. After that, a landlord can file to evict a tenant, and a judge has seven to 10 days to set a hearing date.
Prettyman, in a recent public service announcement, recommended tenants attend their hearings if all possible to potentially get additional time.
If a judge rules in the landlord’s favor, the court will give a tenant three to seven days, or perhaps longer, to get out of the residence.
If a tenant doesn’t leave within that time, the landlord can get a writ of restitution and deliver it to the sheriff’s office, which will force a tenant out.
Prettyman, in an interview, recommended that tenants behind in rent apply now for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, saying that a landlord might back off an eviction attempt if he or she gets paid back, regardless of where the money comes from.
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