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Will end of moratorium bring flood of Vermont evictions?

Published: Jul. 15, 2021 at 4:52 PM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - It’s been a month since Vermont’s pandemic state of emergency expired, and on Thursday the state’s eviction moratorium ended as well. There were about 600 evictions pending in the courts before the pandemic that are still pending. It’s unclear where that number will go as the state attempts to hand out $110-million remaining in rental assistance.

“I believe that the moratorium made it so more people were housed, it increased housing stability and it prevented homelessness,” said Jean Murray, a staff attorney with Vermont Legal Aid.

She says their group is staffing up and has been preparing to represent more people in civil court. During the state of emergency, there weren’t many evictions filed, mostly because of a state rental assistance program that funneled cash to 6,000 renters and 2,000 landlords.

Governor Phil Scott this week said they aren’t sure what to expect with the end of the moratorium. “I haven’t heard much, so it’s my hope that there won’t be that many that have to go into the judicial branch. But it’s up to them, and I have faith in them,” Scott said.

Landlords we spoke to, including Larry Lozier in Barre, say the moratorium has taken a toll. “They don’t want to see a tenant put out on the street and we don’t either, but we have to pay our bills. And if we’re not getting rent, then we can’t pay ours,” Lozier said. He says his tenants have been paying through the pandemic, but that other property managers he’s spoken with have tenants that were taking advantage of the program. He says even before the moratorium, the eviction process was cumbersome for landlords. “if we would just change the eviction laws so that it doesn’t take landlords an act of Congress to get a tenant out that’s not performing as per the lease.”

There’s still $110-million in renter and landlord help through the Vermont State Housing Authority, but the rollout of those funds has been slow. Legal Aid’s Murray says that more time is needed to get that cash to landlords. “People are working very hard to distribute money. There should not be an explosion of evictions. It’s just going to require a little patience,” she said.

But with payments of their own to make, some landlords say that patience can’t go forever.

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