Committee tables bill that would have given tenants more time to catch up on rent

By: - March 11, 2023 5:05 am

A Clovis apartment complex where a tenant is being evicted for non-payment, pictured Feb. 5, 2022. Clovis was one of the first cities in New Mexico where evictions resumed as the courts tested out a pilot diversion program. (Photo by Patrick Lohmann / Source NM)

A bill that would have strengthened protections for tenants facing eviction in New Mexico died on Friday in its second committee hearing.

House Bill 6 would have changed the state’s landlord-tenant laws to give tenants more time to catch up on rent before being evicted, and give people the opportunity to avoid getting evicted if they can pay what is owed. It also would have required tenants to be given information about what financial help is available, and their rights and responsibilities, when they receive a court summons.

The 11-member House Judiciary Committee on Friday afternoon voted not to pass the bill in a 5-5 vote.

House Speaker Javier Martinez (D-Albuquerque) was present for the meeting but was not in the room at the moment of the vote. It is not clear how he would have voted on the bill, but his absence does mean the vote was a tie, and therefore the bill died.

The bill was sponsored by Reps. Angelica Rubio (D-Las Cruces) and Andrea Romero (D-Santa Fe).

The legislation passed the House of Representatives in 2021 and 2022, but was “stuck in Senate Judiciary Committee backlog,” Rubio told a panel of House lawmakers in February.

New Mexico has some of the shortest eviction time frames in the country, said Maria Griego, economic equity director at the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty.

“With record growing inflation, rising rents and stagnant wages, more and more New Mexico renters are at risk for housing instability or homelessness,” Griego said.

Landlords can end a lease just three days after they have provided written notice of nonpayment to a tenant under current state law.

“Many of the renters are going to struggle to pay their rent from time to time, given our current economic crisis,” Griego said. “We need to take steps so that these hardworking families can stay in their home when they’re able to pay, even if it’s sometimes a couple days or a couple weeks behind.”

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Austin Fisher
Austin Fisher

Austin Fisher is a journalist based in Santa Fe. He has worked for newspapers in New Mexico and his home state of Kansas, including the Topeka Capital-Journal, the Garden City Telegram, the Rio Grande SUN and the Santa Fe Reporter. Since starting a full-time career in reporting in 2015, he’s aimed to use journalism to lift up voices that typically go unheard in public debates around economic inequality, policing and environmental racism.