New Eviction Defense Hotline For Spanish Speakers, Plus This Advice For Tenants

Jun 23, 2020

In this May 20, 2020, file photo, signs that read 'No Job No Rent' hang from the windows of an apartment building during the coronavirus pandemic in Northwest Washington. A UNC Chapel Hill School of Law clinic is now offering an eviction defense hotline especially for Spanish speaking tenants to learn more about their rights when navigating a possible eviction.
Credit Andrew Harnik, File / AP Photo

Landlords in North Carolina can begin filing evictions this week, after a statewide moratorium on eviction proceedings lifted Monday. That means a wave of North Carolina tenants could soon face eviction hearings in court.

A UNC Chapel Hill School of Law clinic is now offering an eviction defense hotline especially for Spanish speaking tenants to learn more about their rights when navigating a possible eviction.

Associate professor Kathryn Sabbeth leads the Civil Legal Assistance Clinic, and shared her insights on federal protections against evictions.

Some tenants protected under the federal CARES Act

The goal of the legal clinic's eviction defense hotline is to inform tenants of protections under the federal pandemic relief package that could keep them from being evicted until July 25th or later.

"[The CARES Act] covers a lot of properties," Sabbeth said. "There have been estimates that it covers anywhere up to 45 percent of the properties in the United States."

Any tenant who lives in public housing or receives a Section 8 voucher or whose rental property has a federally backed mortgage will qualify for this protection. Certain properties are protected beyond July.

How do you know if you qualify for CARES Act protection from eviction?

While a tenant may know if they personally receive a federal housing subsidy that would qualify them for protection from eviction, it may be less apparent whether their landlord does.

ProPublica set up a database of protected properties to look up an address and see if it is likely protected.

"Now the database is not comprehensive," Sabbeth said. "There are categories of properties that are not included, but it does include more than 175,000 properties."

What other accommodations are North Carolina courts making to deal with the wave of pending evictions?

Even before the moratorium on new evictions lifted, there were about 10,500 eviction cases pending court hearings in North Carolina, according to a press release from the North Carolina Chief Justice's office. Chief Justice Cheri Beasley recently signed two orders to help manage this backlog and ensure federal eviction protections are followed:

  • One order extends the window for clerks of superior court to schedule eviction court hearings, from 7 days to 30 days, to allow greater flexibility while processing a backlog of eviction cases.
  • Another order requires landlords pursuing an eviction to sign an affidavit stating whether or not their property is covered by the federal CARES Act.

How can you prepare for an eviction hearing?

Legal U.S. residents can seek help from Legal Aid of North Carolina for advice on representing oneself in court or for possible legal representation. Undocumented residents and Spanish speakers can call the UNC School of Law legal clinic's eviction defense hotline at 919-590-9165.

"A person will call or text us and we will look up their property to see if it's listed in the ProPublica database as covered [under the CARES Act]," Sabbeth said.

The legal clinic will then send callers specific information regarding their possible protections and information on eviction court hearings, if applicable.