I-TEAM: Tenants on both sides of the river facing evictions as moratorium expires

(Source: WRDW)
(Source: WRDW)(WRDW)
Published: May. 20, 2020 at 2:31 PM EDT
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Wednesday, May 20, 2020

News 12 at 6 O'Clock/NBC at 7

AIKEN, SC (WRDW/WAGT) -- Families now face evictions on both sides of the river. In March, officials put evictions on hold in Richmond and Aiken counties. The 60-day moratorium expired on Friday.

Aiken County began evicting some people Wednesday. Next week, Richmond County will officially resume evictions too.

Life has been especially rough for Melissa Barnes in the last few months. First, her boyfriend lost his job.

“He lost his job when this COVID thing started,” Barnes said.

Then they lost his mother.

“It's hard to talk about her, but we were hoping she would pull through it,” Barnes said.

Now she worries she will soon lose their home.

“I have no clue what we are going to do,” Barnes said.

We found more than a hundred families have been evicted in Aiken County since the moratorium expired Friday. Close to 40 families in Richmond County will face a similar fate next week when the marshal’s office resumes evictions. The office averages about 75-80 each week.

“We are getting ready for a big storm of evictions,” attorney Kahlim Barclay said.

Barclay is an attorney with Georgia Legal Services. He says the CARES Act does protect some tenants between March and July.

“Essentially a landlord cannot start an eviction in this time period,” Barclay said. “If a tenant falls in this type of protected property and the landlord cannot charge late fees that accrue during this time period.”

Under the CARES Act, protected tenants include people who live in a Section 8 property, private property with HUD voucher, subsidized for elderly and or disabled, low income, tax credit property, or a property financed or insured through federal related agencies like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac or the VA.

“The landlord now has to by Magistrate Rule 46 has to swear their affidavit property is not covered by the CARES Act,” Barclay said.

Barnes is not covered by the CARES Act and rent is due in just two weeks.

“I am trying to come with the money,” Barnes said. "I am trying come up with odd jobs here and there.”

But right now, it’s difficult not to feel like the odds are against her.

The marshal’s office says many landlords have stepped up during this time. Some are canceling evictions after learning their tenant lost their job. As far as evictions go in Richmond County next week, the marshal’s office will only be performing evictions filed prior to March 16.

Protected tenants are required to pay back any owed rent after July 25. The CARES Act only protects against late fees and evictions.

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