A Clovis apartment complex where a tenant is being evicted for non-payment, pictured Feb. 5. 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)
The New Mexico Supreme Court on Wednesday released an order that will lift the state’s eviction moratorium beginning in April.
The court-ordered stay on evictions for non-payment of rent has been in effect since March 2020, a response to rapidly rising coronavirus case counts, a devastated economy and fears about overpacked homeless shelters.
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Two years later, the Supreme Court said conditions have improved enough to allow evictions to occur again for tenants behind in rent. Justices cited improving job numbers and declining case counts.
Starting April 1, courts will hear non-payment eviction cases again in Bernalillo County, along with counties in the southeast part of New Mexico. The rest of the state will follow each month until July 1, when the ban will be lifted across the state.
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
The Court initially planned to lift the ban across the state sometime this month, according to an earlier version of the order. But the Court decided to phase it out instead over the next several months.
That’s because New Mexico officials were concerned about a lack of awareness of rental assistance funding that can help a tenant catch up on rent and pay a landlord what the landlord is owed.
Supreme Court Justice Shannon Bacon told Source New Mexico the court also wanted to make sure court-appointed navigators and legal service organizations could handle the work of preventing unnecessary evictions. So it made more sense to spread that work over time rather than lift the ban all at once, she said.
Under the order, tenants being notified of an eviction filing in court will receive information about legal services like New Mexico Legal Aid and the Emergency Rental Assistance Program.
The program has about $190 million left to spend on 12 months of back rent, temporary hotel and relocation stays and utilities, among other things, according to RentHelpNM.org. The money comes from several federal spending bills over the last two years, including the American Rescue Plan Act.
To help tenants stay housed, the court also created a new eviction diversion program that allows judges to put cases on hold while landlords and tenants try to work out a settlement or connect with the emergency rent fund.
However, the New Mexico Supreme Court’s new order reduces the amount of time eviction cases are put on hold.
A pilot program that launched in February in Curry and Roosevelt counties allowed eviction orders to be postponed for 60 days, though the new order allows just 30 days.
Barry Massey, a spokesperson for the state Administrative Office of the Courts, said the time period was change to encourage “a more efficient resolution of cases,” but said landlords and tenants can ask for more time if they need it.
In many cases over the last two years, if a judge agreed that a tenant was behind in rent, the judge issued a judgment in the landlord’s favor. But those eviction orders were not acted on due to the Supreme Court stay.
Under the new order, landlords must return to court and file a new form requesting a post-judgment eviction order if they still wish to evict, and a tenant can again bring a defense in court.
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