NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – Evictions will be allowed to resume in New Mexico in just a few months following a nearly two-year pause during the pandemic. The state Supreme Court is launching a new program designed to keep people in their homes and also pay landlords. In March 2020, the New Mexico Supreme Court implemented an eviction moratorium preventing landlords from evicting tenants based on inability to pay as COVID-19 cases spiked and businesses were forced to shut down.
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Justice C. Shannon Bacon says it’s time to lift that blanket eviction protection. “It’s a lot of things that we know a lot more about the virus, we know what to do; vaccines are available. Businesses are open so the job market has expanded. All of those things coming together told me and my colleagues at the Supreme Court that the protections weren’t as necessary as they were — even four months ago,” Bacon said.
Now, the Supreme Court is getting ready to launch the Eviction Prevention and Diversion program. “The goal is to help facilitate people staying in their homes but also making landlords whole because they’ve had to wait so long for rent payments during the pandemic,” Bacon said.
The program is designed for all renters and to help tenants access hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funds given to the state for rent assistance. “So the federal government is providing the money as opposed to the tenant trying to figure out how to scrap together many thousands of dollars at this point,” said Bacon.
The federal money will let tenants settle up with their landlords as well as pay for the next three months of rent. “If at the end of that time the tenant isn’t able to keep up with their rent, the landlord then has their normal legal rights to go into court and seek an eviction,” Bacon said.
She says the program benefits everyone. “There’s so much money available that people should really be eager and interested in getting this funding,” Bacon said. It will be piloted in Roosevelt and Curry counties starting February 1. Bacon expects the program to go statewide starting in March. “I’m hopeful that the leg up this federal funding will give people so they can plan for how they’re going to pay their rent long term, will be a game-changer that really keeps people housed and not homeless,” Bacon said.
All the federal money is available now and Bacon encourages tenants to apply, allowing them to avoid court altogether. Money can also be used to help people move and pay for a temporary hotel stay. For more information on rental assistance, visit, renthelpnm.org.