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Jesse Tree: Evictions continue in Treasure Valley despite federal moratorium

There might be a national moratorium on evictions, but they keep coming in the Treasure Valley.

According to an analysis of court documents by eviction-prevention nonprofit Jesse Tree, there are 20 eviction hearings scheduled this week in Ada and Canyon County courts. Thirteen of those hearings are scheduled in Ada County, including five on Christmas Eve, and seven in Canyon County.

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These continue even after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an order in September to put a temporary halt on eviction for renters who qualify in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. The moratorium was recently extended to January 31, but Jesse Tree remains critical of the move because they say its’ vague language and requirement that tenants still owe back rent does not offer real relief.

“In practice, the moratorium has proven to be a misnomer and many Idaho renters are still falling through the cracks,” Jesse Tree Executive Director and State Senator Ali Rabe said in a press release. “Jesse Tree staff have been working in Ada and Canyon County eviction court every week, and we have not seen a change in the number or severity of cases since the moratorium was issued.”

Hoops required for eviction protections

To be protected by the moratorium, residents need to file paperwork showing they meet the income requirements and have sought over assistance in order to have their eviction delayed. This order also requires that tenants still owe landlords rent, which Jesse Tree says will lead to a flood of evictions after the order is lifted when tenants are behind and the courts can proceed as normal.

Rabe said Idaho has not written its own laws to correct some of the vague wording in the moratorium making it easily dismissible in court and often tenants are not aware of the necessary paperwork to take advantage of the projections until they are in court. She said it has put judges and landlords in the position of making subjective decisions on whether paperwork filed by tenants is valid, and it is easily challenged in court.

“When tenants cannot pay, even before a case is filed in court, it is still the status quo for Idaho landlords to provide tenants three-day notices to “pay or quit,” while imposing daily late fees,” Rabe said. “Some tenants simply move out to avoid court. No matter if their inability to pay is COVID-related. Tenants can also be sued for owed back rent in small claims court, which allows landlords to garnish tenants’ wages.”

Earlier this year, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia projected 1.34 million renters in the United States will owe $7.2 billion in back rent by december 2020. The report warned this mounting rental debt will likely lead to mass evictions in early 2021 and could “impede the path to a U.S. economic recovery.”

Since September, Jesse Tree says there have been 298 eviction hearings in the Treasure Valley, including 183 hearings in Ada and 115 in Canyon County.

A chart of the number of evictions every week compiled by Jesse Tree

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Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel is a BoiseDev reporter focused on the City of Boise, housing, homelessness and growth. Contact her at margaret@boisedev.com or by phone at (757)705-8066.

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