Evictions Resume in Mecklenburg County
Mecklenburg County so far has been able to stave off evictions in about half the cases, thanks to emergency rental assistance and cooperation among Legal Aid, landlords, mediators, and social service agencies.
"Our best estimate is that approximately 50% of those may end up in summary ejectments," Mecklenburg District Judge Kimberly Best said. "And that's why the goal for the court system currently is to not only reduce the backlog of cases but also to divert those individuals who are being evicted for non-payment to divert them to resources."
Tenants are struggling after losing jobs or having their hours cut as the coronavirus pandemic slowed the economy. But many rental property owners are struggling, too, facing mortgage payments and other expenses. The challenge right now affects both sides, said Carol Hardison, CEO of Crisis Assistance Ministry in Charlotte.
Meanwhile, physical evictions also resumed last week. Deputies from the Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office are carrying out eviction orders, known as "writs of possession." That means going to tenants' homes and locking them out, said Hannah Guerrier, a lawyer with Legal Aid of North Carolina.
"I can't say the total numbers. We have had a spike in the number of calls that we've been getting, including the number of what we deem emergency cases, like people who are calling with writs scheduled to be executed within one, two, three days," she said.
There could be beneficial long-term effects of everyone talking together, said Mary Williams of the Charlotte Community Relations Committee's Dispute Settlement Program.
"The benefit of mediation is obviously to help with our financial partners to get the landlords their money, and to keep the tenants in their homes obviously, but the mediation process also opens the door for conversation for future issues."