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AAC: Eviction deluge or dribble? Time will tell

Updated: Oct 29, 2020

A high number of variables make it hard, or even impossible, to project whether evictions in Anne Arundel County will skyrocket in months to come. Variables include the AAC unemployment rate, the effectiveness of the county’s rental assistance program, the impact of how the CARE Act and Governor Hogan’s executive orders effect on District Court judges final decisions on each case.

As of May Anne Arundel County’s unemployment rate was 9.2 percent according to Maryland Department of Labor Statistics. In January, just four months before, unemployment was less than a third of that, standing at 3 percent.

What will it be four months from now? It’s anyone’s guess. Maryland’s labor department was not displaying county numbers on unemployment for June, but unemployment for the state as a whole dropped from 9,7 percent in May to 8.3 percent in June.

According to the Maryland courts system as of July 25, the statewide pause on evictions was lifted, but pending and new Failure to Pay Rent cases will be set for hearings on or after August 31, 2020. Some in the property rental industry think that final removal of people from their homes for not paying rent in recent months might not take place until mid October or even November.

Adam Skolnik is executive director of the Maryland Multi-Housing Association. The organization helps represent 155 companies with 215,000 apartments in 996 apartment communities in the state with the exception of Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. He commented on the situation in the beginning of July.

“There's probably going to be more filing,” he said. “Certainly there is little doubt about that. I think this conversation about a tsunami is overblown at the moment. Again, what we've seen, we've surveyed our members and what we've seen is the number of people who are not paying by the end of the month is about about 4 percent higher than it was pre-Covid(19)”

“I don't think people will see they're getting evicted until realistically. middle of October the at earliest.” he said.

He cited the number of steps that needed to be taken in the Maryland eviction process as the main reason for possible delays. He said:

There also may be some remaining protections from Governor Hogan’s “Order on Evictions, Repossessions and Foreclosures”. According Maryland Courts, in general, this order means as long as the state of emergency exists and the order remains the same:

“A court will not give a judgment or issue a Warrant of Restitution in a Failure to Pay Rent or Breach of Lease case if the tenant can prove that they have had a substantial loss of income due to the COVID-19 pandemic. AND The Commissioner of Financial Regulation of the State of Maryland will not issue Notices of Intent to Foreclose.”

According to Maryland Court statistics there were 70 evictions in Anne Arundel County in July of 2019 and 52 eviction that August. In March of this year there were 12 eviction, but that ended with the eviction moratorium. In April, May and June there were 0 evictions according to the court’s records.

Others had more immediate concerns about the eviction issue. Clifton Martin is the director of the Housing Commission of Anne Arundel County. The housing commission owns and manages about 1100 rental units he said. The local moratorium on eviction for those units ends October 31. Martin spoke about eviction towards the beginning of July.

“Anybody whose business it is to provide housing and shelter for families the last thing you want to do is evict a family,” he said. “That's just something you really don't find appetizing at all. And so, you know, you certainly don't want to hear about a tidal wave of evictions coming and creating just myriad of other crises in the middle of a pandemic. The county isn't going to be able to cope with (it). So it's definitely a big, a big concern for all of us.”

Kathleen Koch is the executive director of Arundel Community Development Services, Inc. is a local nonprofit running a new eviction prevention program. By July the program had already drawn many applicants.

Near the beginning of this month she said:

“What we're doing is providing assistance to people who can't pay the rent,” Koch said, “ We've had over 1100 calls that we have fielded. We've got over 1000 people in case management and we got a little over 100 people on a waiting list. Are we seeing increased numbers pursuing a consistent number? I don't think an increased number yet.”

Anne Arundel streets and communities don’t appear to be being flooded with waves of homeless residents as of now. The year 2020 has been a very volatile time for many people, It has forced us to cope with sudden health threats and economic and lifestyle changes. And we have almost half of the year to see though yet.

More of us may struggle to keep a roof over our heads by the time December comes. Yet there seems to be no advantage to either tenants or landlords not to strive for solutions.

As Skolnik explained neither landlord or tenant benefit from eviction.

“Should we be advocating to get more money from the state?.” he asked. “Sure. Should we be advocating to get more money from the federal government? Sure. For rental assistance, all of those things would be would be very helpful to avoid this problem. My members are not in the business of evicting people. We're in the business of renting to people. All they want to do is rent to people, give them good housing, and those people pay their rent.”