In March of 2020, the CDC placed a moratorium on evictions to safeguard the public. The well-intended concept kept people in their homes while unemployed. However, the tenants soon understood they could not be evicted, and the Center on Law and Poverty’s attorneys fought for tenants’ rights with articles illustrating people being ripped from their homes and the thousands that would soon become homeless.
Long-time Metropolitan Judge Frank Sedillo wrote an op-ed in the Journal that illustrated that looking for the truth requires evaluating all perspectives being presented.
After 15 months, the moratorium exists along with hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid rents. Owners, still unable to repair their properties, make mortgage payments, pay utility bills, pay employees.
Attorneys have appealed 30-day notices for the return of the owner’s property, causing further damage costs and infringing on the rights of property owners. The federal government has allocated relief for the tenants through appropriations of funds for rental payments. Oh, but the rules only apply if you lost your job, filed taxes or had reduced employment.
But what about those who decided not to pay? Who received free legal support to fight eviction? Who somehow now don’t qualify for the funds? Property owners are the ones footing the bill. The country’s need to protect without screening for those truly in need was an inconsiderate blanket protection.
Ten percent of tenants took advantage of the situation, not paying when able. Judges have been complacent by giving judgments without considering past-due amounts. Metro Judge Rosie Allred consistently finds in favor of tenants, foregoing past due amounts, where tenants just walk away without paying.
An agency in town has $750,000 in rental assistance to help tenants who receive a writ. However, judges are not easily granting writs, so tenants are unable to receive assistance at all. A real Catch-22. Judge Allred, when informed of this, said, “that can’t be right” and continued to not grant the writ.
Consequently, the funds are unspent, leaving owners unable to pay their bills or make repairs. Furthermore, once the moratorium ends on June 30, tenants will be evicted at alarming rates, courts will become overwhelmed and owners will continue fighting to hold onto their maltreated properties. The federal government has given New Mexico $170,000,000, but cannot seem to get the money to owners and tenants due to unrealistic qualifications.
The unintended consequences are that many believe the landowners can afford the losses. The reality is the average units owned are 10 among all owners of homes and small complexes in New Mexico. We have devastated these owners.
The attorneys for the Centers on Law and Poverty fought to reinstate tenants who had been evicted from a home in Raton. It was celebrated. But what about the elderly couple renting their home, losing their income and still required to maintain the property and pay its bills without income? Who is the real victim? Perspective from those that provide the housing.
Now, what we may see is a reduction in housing, a tightening of rental requirements and criteria and increasing of rents to help overcome all the losses for those owners surviving the pandemic.
Owners are not the enemy; they are part of the solution. Equity is the perspective; it must be applied to all.
Chuck Sheldon is CEO and president of the Sheldon Co., T&C Management Co. and Enchanted Properties Construction Co. He is also senior vice president of Collier International and owner of more than 350 apartment units.