Legal Aid Attorneys Prevent 30 Evictions Over Three DaysPosted Sep 14, 2021
In the wake of the sudden termination of the federal eviction moratorium, dozens of families and individuals faced the sudden prospect of homelessness. Many eviction hearings were scheduled throughout New Hampshire earlier this month.
As part of a coordinated effort between state circuit courts and local aid agencies, attorneys from New Hampshire Legal Assistance attended hearings in Manchester, Nashua, Hampton, and Claremont, and provided advice and limited representation to tenants facing eviction. Legal aid can help tenants facing eviction postpone their hearings so they have time to access some of the available federal emergency rental assistance.
In total, NHLA attorneys were able to help prevent 30 evictions over the course of three days, in large part by negotiating with landlords to give tenants time to apply for or receive federal eviction prevention resources from their local CAP program.
“We want to ensure tenants have access to the full protections of the law, while SNHS and other Community Action Programs continue to spread the word about resources still available to tenants, even when they are deep in the eviction process,” said Elliott Berry, co-director of the Housing Justice Project at New Hampshire Legal Assistance.
Tenants should apply for rental assistance as soon as possible; and if they have not received a decision by the time of their court hearing they should ask the judge to postpone the hearing until a decision on their rental assistance application is made.
Even tenants who have not applied for rental assistance can ask the court for time to make an application. Funds are available to pay landlords what they are owed and avoid thousands of evictions.
“It would be tragic for both tenants and landlords for this opportunity to be lost,” Berry added.
Visitors to the Manchester Courthouse met with NHLA attorneys as well as representatives from Southern New Hampshire Services, who helped expedite the rental assistance application process. In some cases, SNHS was able to approve the rental assistance on the spot, ensuring landlords were paid and tenants avoided homelessness.
“It was a great experience and incredibly effective in both helping tenants avoid homelessness and helping landlords recover from the economic impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” said Kerstin Cornell, one of the NHLA attorneys who covered the Manchester cases. “SNHS’s on-site availability was a gamechanger. Knowing that they were able to process applications on the spot made it much easier to negotiate with landlords who were tired of waiting and simply wanted to be paid.”
Lauren Greenwald, a staff attorney out of NHLA’s Portsmouth office, worked at Hampton District Court on a day when more than ten eviction hearings were scheduled.
“As each tenant arrived, I approached them and introduced myself,” she said. “I could see the relief on each person’s face after it registered that I was there to help them avoid losing their housing. Everyone walked out with their housing intact and plans to apply for and hopefully, obtain rental assistance.”
“We’re just doing our job,” said Berry. “CAP staff, and the court system deserve a huge thanks for the work they’ve accomplished in preventing unnecessary evictions. I am pleased that NHLA could play a role as well.”
More eviction clinics will be scheduled in Manchester through October:
- September 14: 1 PM – 4 PM
- September 23: 8:30 AM – 12 PM
- September 28: 1 PM – 4PM
- October 6: 1 PM – 4 PM
- October 15: 8:30 AM – 12 PM
- October 21: 8:30 AM – 12 PM
- October 26: 1 PM – 4 PM
We encourage all tenants who are behind on their rent to apply for relief from their local Community Action Program, and if they need additional help, to contact 603 Legal Aid for advice or a referral to New Hampshire Legal Assistance.