Eviction Reforms Announced
Durham Housing Authority Announces Eviction Reforms
DURHAM, NC - Today Durham Housing Authority (DHA) Chief Executive Officer Anthony Scott announced significant reforms in the way that DHA will approach evictions. "We have been meeting with our tenants and community housing advocates and listening to their concern over DHA's eviction practices," said Scott. "Recognizing that our residents are the most likely to experience financial stresses that hinder their ability to pay rent, today we are announcing comprehensive changes that we think will significantly reduce the number of evictions from DHA properties."
Dan Hudgins, Chair of the Board of the Housing Authority, said, "The board and staff of DHA are taking immediate steps to reduce the number of eviction filings. As some of the community's most vulnerable families, DHA residents should not lose their housing because of an inability to pay."
CEO Scott announced the following changes:
- Starting immediately, the initial notice to tenants who have failed to pay rent on a timely basis will give residents additional information that includes: contacting the manager to make payment arrangements; rental assistance resources offered by the Durham County Department of Social Services; reminders for residents about their rights under the lease, including to request a hardship exemption in some cases to waive rental charges; and will clearly state the timeline to pay to avoid an eviction filing against them, and explain any collateral consequences.
- In cases where residents do not respond to the notice, a new layer of legal review will be conducted by DHA's newly hired general counsel before any complaint is filed. DHA anticipates that these changes and our focus on intervention earlier in the process will provide for speedier resolution and avoid the need to seek an eviction.
- DHA has also engaged with a local community agency to assist us with families who are at high risk of eviction. This Eviction Prevention Pilot will target high risk families with an intervention program that will suspend any court filings, remove prior legal and late fees, and provide access to other ways to reduce their rent burden. The pilot program will also give the family an opportunity to talk with a third party about the root causes of the financial hardship, and put them on track to long-term, responsible tenancy with the proper supports. Pilot program participants will have access to resources to assist the family holistically, including: food, clothing, supplies for the home, child care assistance, afterschool programs, health care including behavioral health, along with access to job readiness training, and job search assistance, all based on an assessment of their personal goals as well as their short-and long-term needs.
- Within the next month, DHA anticipates making additional changes to its eviction process and training of DHA staff to make early referrals for residents in need and to provide exemptions where they are available.
- DHA is also actively seeking alternative means of addressing rent payments. For example, within the past six months, DHA has expanded options for rental payment, including payment through an online portal and at partner locations, in an effort to make it easier for residents to pay rent and to help residents avoid unnecessary charges for purchasing money orders.
- Going forward, DHA plans to engage with local and state level political leaders to help alleviate the collateral consequences of North Carolina's existing landlord/tenant laws by helping tenants to expunge filed eviction cases that never reach a court judgment.
CEO Anthony Scott said: "DHA's goal is not just to divert an eviction, and to prevent an eviction filing, but to eliminate the need for any filing in the first place by helping our residents to reach the resources they need for stable, affordable housing from DHA. We expect the combined effect of these efforts will be a considerable decrease in the number of evictions in Durham and greater housing security for our residents and our community."