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Local groups prepare for burst of evictions as moratorium ends Dec. 31

Published: Dec. 15, 2020 at 5:02 PM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - With all eyes on the COVID-19 vaccine coming, the federal moratorium on evictions expires on Dec. 31.

After that, landlords around the country are free to file to evict any tenant behind on their rent.

In Richmond County, courts and nonprofit organizations are gearing up for a surge in eviction filings.

Come the first working day in January, it will be time for thousands of renters to pay up. But for many people out of work, a hold on evictions was their only saving grace.

“We receive calls daily,” said Lasima Turmon with Augusta’s Housing Department. “It is a huge need that exists within our community.”

The moratorium was not a waiver, meaning people still owe all the back rent they haven’t paid.

But Turmon says with bills piling up and little money coming in, that could be a huge problem for people in Richmond County.

“Our department, as well as other organizations, are working hard to try to leverage resources to be able to provide assistance,” Turmon said.

That means resources like Georgia Legal Services, a nonprofit that provides free legal help to people who qualify. Kahlim Barclay is an evictions attorney with Georgia Legal.

“Due to the fact that we have COVID restrictions, and due to the fact that we will have a lot of landlords filing dispossessory actions, the court system will be backed up. So, people will have to be patient,” Barclay said.

As the courts become inundated with eviction papers, cases may get backed up, meaning it could take longer for landlords to get their tenants out.

“If you anticipate that you are owing back rent or that you may be out, it is a good idea to start looking for new places,” Barclay said.

Resources like the CSRA Economic Opportunity Authority, United Way, and even local churches -- all can offer resources or rent assistance for those struggling to make ends meet.

“The earlier you call us, the better the result can be and the better we can navigate the issue,” Barclay said.

Georgia Legal advises that if you do receive an eviction notice, make sure you respond within seven days to get a court date. Otherwise, the case will likely default to the landlord.

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