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December 2020

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THE LARC ADVOCATE

“We stand alone, together.”

A monthly newsletter from

THE LEGAL ADVICE & REFERRAL CENTER

ISSUE 10 | DECEMBER 2020

In this issue: 

CDC eviction moratorium ends December 31st

Question of Law: What happens to my personal property after I am evicted?

Report Fraud

News and Information for the Low-Income Community

Good Client Stories

CDC Eviction Moratorium Ends December 31st

As you may know, the CDC’s moratorium on nonpayment evictions ends in on December 31, 2020.

To be covered under this moratorium, eligible tenants must deliver a signed Declaration to their landlord. While it seems that doing so now would only secure tenants’ homes for a couple of extra weeks, it is still worth doing. It is possible the moratorium will be extended.

Encourage your clients or patients to:

  • Use this link to answer a few questions to see if the tenant is covered by the CDC order and to produce a declaration to share with the landlord if they are. The tenant answers a few more questions and the program creates the required declaration form and a letter to send to the landlord with the required declaration. https://apps.suffolklitlab.org/run/cdc_moratorium/#/1. This form is national and can be used anywhere in the United States. OR
  • Help the tenant get a the CDC Declaration form on the COVID page of New Hampshire Legal Aid’s website here: https://nhlegalaid.org/files/cdc-declaration-larcnh.pdf

Report Fraud

Difficult situations can bring out the best in people. It can also bring out the worst. Protect yourself from scammers trying to take advantage of you, especially as the holidays approach. Whenever you see a scam or suspicious business practice, report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

ReportFraud.ftc.gov makes it easy for people to report scams, frauds, and bad business practices. Spanish speakers can go to ReporteFraude.ftc.gov to report scams.

  • Did you order face masks online but did not get them? Report it.
  • Do not give your social security number to a stranger. If someone calls and says they need it, it is a scam. Report it.
  • Emails and texts saying you won money are a scam. Do not click on the link. Report it.
  • A free prize for a fee is not free or a prize. Anyone who says something is free, but you must pay, is lying to you. Report it.
  • If someone tells you to pay them with gift cards or by wire transfer (Western Union, MoneyGram), you are talking to a scammer. Do not pay them. Report it.
  • Romance websites can help people find love. But scammers are on those sites too. Report it.
  • Right now, people are looking for jobs and ways to make money. Scammers know that. They are charging up-front for jobs that do not exist. If you think you have spotted a money-making scheme, report it.
  • Who doesn’t want a cure? But there is no pill that can cure everything. If you see ads for something that promises to cure cancer, MS, and COVID-19, stop. It is a scam. Report it.

A Question of Law

Question: What happens to my personal property after I am evicted from my apartment?

Answer: A landlord who does not share significant portions of their living space, such as a bathroom, living room, or kitchen, with the tenant, is obligated to maintain and exercise reasonable care in the storage of the personal property of a tenant who has vacated the premises, either voluntarily or by eviction, for a period of seven days after the date upon which such tenant has vacated. During this period, the tenant shall be allowed to recover personal property without payment of rent or storage fees. After the seven-day limit has expired, such personal property may be disposed of by the landlord without notice to the tenant. RSA 540-A:3, VII

News and Information for the Low-Income Community

Free Legal Advice and Referrals:

LARC advises low-income people of their legal rights in non-criminal matters. Call 800-639-5290 between 9 AM and 1 PM weekdays, or apply online at any time. LARC gives free legal advice by telephone and makes referrals to partner agencies: NH Legal Aid and the Pro Bono Program.

Economic Impact Payments:

The IRS has a help line for those who did not receive an EIP payment. You can initiate a trace on your payment by calling the IRS at 800-919-9835.

Help for those struggling with mortgage payments:

Many homeowners are behind on mortgage payments. Servicers and other financial institutions have options available. To learn what they are and what to do, watch a short video from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

This guide explains more about mortgage relief options.

Housing counselors can help free-of-charge to explore options for each situation. Call 211 to find a HUD-approved Housing Counselor (just dial 2-1-1). Multilingual assistance and TDD access are also available. For those outside of New Hampshire, call 1-866-444-4211. or go to the 211 website.

Homeowners who are behind on mortgage payments due to COVID-19 can apply for financial help. Direct them to www.capnh.org or to call their local CAP agency or call 2-1-1 from any NH phone.

If foreclosure is imminent, they can apply for free legal advice from LARC’s Foreclosure Relief Project (FRP): leave a message at 877-399-9995 or apply online.

Community Guidance for the COVID-19 crisis from NHLA:

New Hampshire Legal Assistance (NHLA) offers a detailed guide with up-to-date information on state and federal assistance and other programs available to people in need with links to apply or to get more information. See NHLA’s Community Guidance for the CIVOD-19 crisis also available on the homepage of their website, nhla.org.

Topics covered in this guide include CARES Act stimulus payments; Social Security Benefits; Unemployment Insurance Benefits; Utilities support; Food Stamps; Cash Assistance; Medicaid; Domestic Violence; Housing; Senior and Consumer Law; and Youth Law/Education.

NHLA hopes you will share this resource with your community and clients.

Good Client Stories

Rose

Rose, a 35-year-old single mother of two young children renting an apartment in Berlin, New Hampshire, had been dealing with unsafe and unhealthy conditions in her apartment. She had been writing to her landlord for months, but he did not fix the problems. Rose decided she had to withhold rent until the landlord dealt with these issues.

Because some of the withheld rent was for April and May, the landlord served Rose with a demand for rent and a 30-day eviction notice at the beginning of August. Right after the eviction notice expired, the landlord’s attorney filed a writ of summons at the Berlin District Court. At the eviction hearing, Rose attempted to use withholding of rent as a defense. However, because she spent the unpaid rent on emergency bills, she did not have it with her at the time of the hearing and therefore could not use rent withholding as a defense. The landlord won the case.

Rose filed a notice of intent to appeal at the district court and was able to pay weekly rent to the court for 30 days, after which she would need to file an appeal with the supreme court or the landlord would get the writ of possession at the beginning of November. This court paper would give the apartment back to the landlord, putting Rose and her children out on the street. Rose had no idea what to do.

In a panic, and not knowing where else to turn, Rose contacted LARC. Her LARC advocate understood the important facts in her case. Since it was too late for Rose to file a motion to reconsider or to ask the court for more time in her apartment, the LARC advocate knew something had to be done quickly to keep Rose and her family from becoming homeless.

The LARC advocate determined that Rose was covered under the CDC eviction moratorium. He explained the CDC declaration to her and made sure she understood what to do. He sent Rose the form for her to review, sign, date, and give to her landlord. LARC followed up with Rose the next day and learned that she sent a copy of her CDC declaration to the landlord by way of a text message. Rose worried that her landlord might not have checked his text messages in the meantime.

The LARC advocate wrote a motion to stay execution of the writ of possession due to the fact that Rose was a covered person under the CDC moratorium. This document asked the court to stop the process that would have removed Rose from her apartment because she was covered under the CDC eviction moratorium. LARC emailed the motion to Rose telling her to attach a copy of her signed CDC declaration, send a copy of the motion and declaration to the landlord's attorney, and file the original with the court. LARC got the good news that the motion to stay was granted by the court and Rose and her children could stay in the apartment until the beginning of next year. No one would be made homeless during the holiday season!

“I am so glad organizations such as yours exist as I never would have known what to do and there was no way I could have paid for the legal help that you so generously gave to me. Thank you so much!”

Sue

"Sue" was a 41-year-old single Mom who, for the last 7 years, lived with her 5 children in a rented home in rural NH. Sue's landlady wanted to sell the home in the fall of 2020, during the 2nd wave of the pandemic, and decided to evict Sue to facilitate the sale. With no new shelter available for her family, Sue called the Legal Advice & Referral Center (LARC) for help.

LARC informed Sue that the Center for Disease Control (CDC), in an effort to slow the spread of covid, issued a nationwide order in late summer stopping evictions of vulnerable tenants for nonpayment of rent for the remainder of 2020. LARC explained that the CDC order, while not clear, also probably applied to no-fault based evictions, like the one she faced. LARC advised Sue to hand her landlady a written notice declaring her eligibility under the CDC order. LARC then drafted a motion for Sue to file at the local district court which argued that the CDC order should stop Sue's eviction for the rest of the year.

Sue’s landlady responded to LARC's motion by hiring an attorney to fight Sue’s request for more quarantine time. The landlady's attorney filed her own motion which argued that Sue - employed, current with rent, and therefore not facing eviction for nonpayment of rent - didn’t qualify for protection under the CDC order. The motion demanded Sue and her family be removed immediately. The court scheduled a hearing for the day before Thanksgiving to hear each side argue its interpretation of the CDC order.

LARC, with Sue's permission, shared the details of this important legal battle with colleagues at New Hampshire Legal Assistance (NHLA). An attorney from NHLA jumped at the opportunity to defend Sue and educate the court on the broader scope of protection provided in the CDC order.

Sue contacted LARC right after her hearing. She said her NHLA attorney convinced the judge that legal aid's interpretation of the CDC order was the correct one. Sue and her family would remain safely quarantined in the home for the rest of the year.

"I hate to think where we'd be eating our Thanksgiving dinner this year if legal aid wasn't there to help," Sue told LARC. "You guys are heroes!"

If you know someone who had a good outcome in a legal case due to LARC’s help, please share that Good Client Story with us! We would love to share it with our readers. LARC will never use a client’s real name or any facts that could reveal who that client is. Send your Good Client Stories to: webmaster@larcnh.org and put “Good Client Story” in the subject line.

 

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