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County Executive Steuart Pittman announces $1.5 million boost to local rent relief, federal eviction moratorium ends Saturday

Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman has bolstered the Eviction Prevention Program with another $1.5 million of the county’s federal relief funding. The $4.5 million program provides renters below a certain income level with direct rent and utility assistance and legal counseling.

The expansion was announced Friday, one day before the federal moratorium on evictions is lifted.

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“We must provide assurances to our county residents as they struggle through this pandemic that they will not lose their homes,” Pittman said. “While I have repeatedly called on Governor Hogan and the federal government to do more, we are prepared to act now. Providing legal help and conflict resolution services will be a lifeline to renters fighting to stay in their homes.”

The moratorium has been in place since March 27, when President Donald Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. It was set to sunset after 120 days, and despite efforts from Congress to extend and expand the protections, no protections were extended.

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The coronavirus has infected at least 6,229 county residents, killed at least 206, and left more than 80,000 Anne Arundel County residents jobless since early March.

The Eviction Protection Program is open to anyone who makes less than 60% of the area median income, as long as they can demonstrate they have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Eligible residents can apply online or by calling 410-222-7600.

Kathleen Koch, executive director of Arundel Community Development Services, said at least 1,200 applications have been processed since the program launched in May.

What does the federal eviction moratorium being lifted mean for Maryland renters?

The federal eviction moratorium, which was in place via the CARES Act, protected only tenants who live in housing that is part of federal programs, such as public housing. The 120-day moratorium prevented landlords from filing eviction actions and the courts from hearing cases or executing evictions for tenants of federally funded facilities.

Because the Maryland District Courts were closed during the moratorium, judges only held emergency hearings, effectively extending the moratorium to all renters.

Now that courts are opening again and the moratorium expires July 25, landlords or their representatives can once again file failure to pay rent complaints, the most common method used to begin eviction for non-payment of rent.

Every complaint for rent filed between March 27 and Aug. 24, even those for private apartments or homes, must be filed with a CARES Act compliance form, assuring the landlord followed the law. Without a CARES Act compliance form, district court judges will dismiss the case.

If a landlord overseeing federally subsidized housing covered under the CARES Act filed a failure to pay rent complaint between March 27 and July 25, district court judges would dismiss that case as well.

I rent a private apartment or home. Does the federal moratorium expiration affect me?

No. The federal moratorium only protected tenants living in housing run under a federal program and those with certain federally backed mortgage loans. Private landlords or homeowners were able to file failure to pay rent complaints while the courts were closed. Those complaints, however, do still need to be accompanied by a CARES Act compliance form.

What does it mean for public housing residents or residents of other federal housing programs?

In Maryland, where these residents were protected by the CARES Act, the end of the federal moratorium means their fate is determined at the local level. Some local housing authorities have extended their bans on evictions.

If the local housing authority or property manager has not extended its eviction ban, renters may still be protected under Gov. Larry Hogan’s state of emergency. That order bars eviction when the tenant proves they lost substantial income due to the pandemic.

The Housing Authority of the City of Annapolis has extended its rent eviction moratorium through November 2 and is not charging late fees on rent during this period. The ban on evictions only applies to tenants who are behind on rent. The housing authority will still pursue evictions of households with health and safety violations as well as criminal and drug-related activity.

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Residents of the Housing Commission of Anne Arundel County are protected from rent evictions through the end of October. That deadline could be extended upon future review, said housing CEO Clifton Martin. The county housing commission will still pursue evictions of households with health and safety violations or criminal and drug-related activity.

Who does the state eviction moratorium protect, and how long will it last?

Hogan’s statewide emergency order provides some protection for renters who lost income due to the pandemic. Those who couldn’t pay rent because of a substantial loss in income must demonstrate that hardship in court. The judge will then determine whether to dismiss the case.

Tenants may prove their loss of income by showing lost or reduced employment due to COVID-19, closure of employer, or needing to care for a school-aged child. Diagnosis of COVID-19 or under investigation for the virus both qualify as loss of income as well, said state spokesperson Michael Ricci.

Bring whatever evidence to court.

The state of emergency order will likely stay in place for the foreseeable future, maintaining those protections, Ricci said.

Hearings on failure-to-pay-rent cases begin Aug. 31 in Maryland. Courts will stagger cases, and individuals will have to submit to a temperature check, a health screening and wear face masks before entering the building, said Nadine Maeser, a spokesperson for the Maryland Judiciary.

Affirmative answers to the health screening or a discovered fever will prompt rescheduling of the case, Maeser said.

Remote hearings may also be offered on a case by case basis, Maeser said, depending on whether individuals are capable of participating by phone or video.

Could I be evicted Monday?

It’s unlikely.

Cases pending before the pandemic will not be heard until Aug. 31. If the court awards a judgment for the landlord, tenants can pay the mandated amount to stop the eviction.

Failing to pay that judgment allows the landlord to file a warrant for restitution. This order allows sheriffs to schedule and enforce an eviction. The warrants expire after 60 days.

Anne Arundel County, Sheriff Jim Fredericks said there is “no backlog of unexpired eviction notices that we’re ready to serve starting Monday.”

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What if I couldn’t make rent before mid-March and my landlord was already in the process of trying to evict me?

Pending eviction actions filed before the pandemic will be heard in late August, according to district court guidance.

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Warrants pending before the courts closed have likely expired, Fredericks said. The warrants could be given new expiration dates or be refiled.

Anne Arundel County evictions are likely to be scheduled in the fall or later, said Col. Frank Tewey, a spokesman for the sheriff’s department.

What does it mean to get a failure-to-pay-rent complaint?

The complaint is not an eviction notice, but it does begin the process. It is a notice for a court date. The notice should, in the upper right-hand corner, indicate when and where to show up for a hearing.

At court, listen for the appropriate name or case number. The case number is found in the upper right corner of the complaint. It should begin with D-071-LT-20 followed by six digits. The judge will likely call out those last six.

If you lost income during the pandemic and couldn’t pay rent, that can be explained to the judge. The judge may dismiss your case if you prove loss of employment or income due to the pandemic. Bring whatever evidence available.

If you don’t show up to your court date, the court will likely grant judgment in favor of the landlord if the landlord complied with the CARES Act.

If the case doesn’t go your way, appeals can be filed within four business days. If you agree with the judgment, you will have the opportunity to pay the amount awarded by the court to stop your eviction as long as the judge did not foreclose your right of redemption.

A judge will only foreclose a right of redemption if you have three prior judgments in the last twelve months or four prior judgments if you live in Baltimore City.

After four days, your landlord can file for a warrant of restitution to reclaim the property. You can pay the amount owed and stay in your home up to the day of eviction if the judge did not foreclose the right of redemption.

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