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June 2020

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The LARC Advocate

“We stand alone, together.”

 

A monthly newsletter from

the Legal Advice & Referral Center

Issue 4 | JUNE 2020

Bart relaxes after another busy day at LARC.

In this issue:

Unemployment Benefits

Preserve Tenancy with Pay & Stay Agreement

A Question of Law: What are your rights under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act?

News and Information for the Low-Income Community

Good Client Story

Had you heard that Governor Sununu extended the moratorium on evictions for failure to pay rent until June 5, 2020?  (Check here for updates.) Read the article below called “Preserve Tenancy with Pay & Stay Agreement.”

As the COVID-19 crisis continues, so do the problems the low-income community faces. Legal issues posed by the pandemic are evolving daily. LARC is here to help people make sense of this confusing time. See NH Legal Aid’s website for LEGAL ISSUES DURING COVID-19 CRISIS.

Unemployment Benefits

COVID-19 job loss has NH residents applying for UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS by the tens of thousands.If your patient or client wants to file a claim, check on a claim or has questions, direct them to NH Employment Security at www.unemploymentbenefits.nh.gov or call the Unemployment Assistance Hotline at 603-271-7700. Monday through Friday 8 AM to 8 PM Saturday and Sunday 9 AM to 5 PM.

For legal help, have them apply at LARC by calling 800-635-9250 between 9 AM and 3 PM weekdays or apply online at www.nhlegalaid.org anytime.

Preserve Tenancy with Pay & Stay Agreement

Governor Sununu extended the moratorium on evictions for failure to pay rent until June 5, 2020. Nothing in the Governor’s moratorium eliminates or waives the rent. A tenant will still have to pay rent to the landlord to avoid a future eviction.

The federal CARES Act prohibits some landlords of federally subsidized units or properties from filing new evictions for failure to pay rent until July 25, 2020. The Act also prohibits some landlords from charging fees or interest for late payment during this period. The Act doesn’t eliminate or waive rent.

If a tenant can’t pay rent due to COVID-19, that tenant should consider asking the landlord to enter into a payment plan that will allow the tenant to pay past due rent in smaller partial payments, once the tenant has income again. For the tenant’s protection, the agreement must be in writing. And a tenant should not sign the agreement unless the tenant understands everything in the agreement.

When negotiating a payment plan, the agreement should include:

1. A ledger of all amounts currently owed;

2. The date(s) and amount(s) of all the payments;

3. Whether the payment plan includes the rent that will become due during the payment plan;

4. What will happen if a payment is missed; and

5. A promise from the landlord that by agreeing to the payment plan, the landlord will not take legal action against the tenant.

A tenant letter asks the landlord to consider a payment plan. If the letter is successful, the pay & stay agreement helps get the details reduced to writing so it can be enforced. If you have questions about how to write a “tenant letter” and a “pay & stay agreement,” call LARC.

If you have clients or patients who have fallen behind in rent during the COVID-19 pandemic, please share this information with them. If you have clients or patients who are facing eviction or have questions about their tenant rights, urge them to contact LARC.

A QUESTION OF LAW: What are your rights under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act?

Q: What are your rights under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)?

A: The FFCRA requires certain public employers and private employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide their employees with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19 and will be effective through December 31, 2020.

Generally, the Act provides that covered employers must provide to all employees:

  • Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at the employee’s regular rate of pay where the employee is unable to work because they are quarantined (pursuant to Federal, State, or local government order or advice of a health care provider), and/or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis; or
  • Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay because they are unable to work due to a bona fide need to care for someone subject to quarantine (pursuant to Federal, State, or local government order or advice of a health care provider), or care for a minor child whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19, and/or the employee is experiencing a substantially similar condition as specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Secretaries of the Treasury and Labor.

A covered employer must provide to employees that it has employed for at least 30 days:

  • Up to an additional 10 weeks of paid expanded family and medical leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay where an employee is unable to work due to a bona fide need for leave to care for a child whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19.

However, keep in mind that small businesses with fewer than 50 employees may qualify for exemption from the requirement to provide leave due to school closings or child care unavailability if the leave requirements would jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern.

Qualifying Reasons for Leave:

Under the FFCRA, an employee qualifies for paid sick time if they are unable to work (or unable to telework) due to a need for leave because the employee:

1. is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19;

2. has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine related to COVID-19;

3. is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and is seeking a medical diagnosis;

4. is caring for an individual subject to an order described in (1) or self-quarantine as described in (2);

5. is caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed (or child care provider is unavailable) for reasons related to COVID-19; or

6. is experiencing any other substantially-similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Secretaries of Labor and Treasury.

Duration of Leave:

For reasons (1)-(4) and (6): A full-time employee is eligible for up to 80 hours of leave, and a part-time employee is eligible for the number of hours of leave that the employee works on average over a two-week period.

For reason (5): A full-time employee is eligible for up to 12 weeks of leave at 40 hours a week, and a part-time employee is eligible for leave for the number of hours that the employee is normally scheduled to work over that period.

For more information please refer to: https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic/ffcra-employer-paid-leave

The above information is not a complete guide to the law. It is meant to serve as an aid in assessing possible legal options and is not meant to replace the services of a lawyer. Be advised that changes in the law affecting this subject matter could occur at any time.

NEWS AND INFORMATION FOR THE LOW-INCOME COMMUNITY

Free Legal Advice and Referrals:

LARC is an essential service and remains open during the State of Emergency. We can advise low-income people of their legal rights (in non-criminal matters) during this confusing time. Have them call 800-639-5290 between 9 AM and 3 PM weekdays, or apply online at anytime. LARC gives free legal advice by telephone.

Help for those struggling with mortgage payments:

Many homeowners are falling behind on mortgage payments. While NH has a moratorium on foreclosures during the state of emergency, borrowers are still responsible for these 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 is also available. For those outside of New Hampshire, call 1-866-444-4211. or go to the 211 website.

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

Community Guidance for the COVID-19 crisis from NHLA:

While New Hampshire Legal Assistance (NHLA) offices are closed to the public during the COVID-19 health crisis, staff members are working, representing current clients, evaluating applications for new clients, and providing resources for navigating the eve-changing landscape of benefits available to clients.

Among those resources is our Community Guidance for the CIVOD-19 crisis available on the homepage of our website, nhla.org. This detailed guide provides up-to-date information on the state and federal supports and programs available to our community as well as links to apply or seek additional information.

Topics covered in this guidance 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.

We hope you will share this resource with your community and clients: //www.nhla.org/blog/NHLA-Community-Guidance-for-COVID-19-crisis-entry-76

GOOD CLIENT STORY

“Lisa” was a 26-year-old woman living alone in an apartment in northern NH. Lisa’s landlord wanted to bring in prospective buyers for a tour of her apartment during the COVID-19 pandemic. When Lisa politely expressed concern and asked if a virtual tour would be acceptable, she was handed an eviction notice.

Lisa took her friend’s advice and called the Legal Advice & Referral Center (LARC) for help. LARC explained to Lisa how the entire eviction process worked, how long it would probably take before a hearing was scheduled, that her landlord needed permission from a judge before she would be obligated to leave, and that she had defenses that could actually defeat the eviction.

When LARC asked Lisa if the question that prompted her call had been answered, she responded: "No, you answered multiple questions for me. You took the mystery out of this whole thing for me, and I feel so much better. You've been wonderful."

LARC invited Lisa to stay in touch so that more help could be offered.

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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