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Evictions on hold statewide for those impacted by virus


Earlier this week, the New Mexico Supreme Court ordered a temporary moratorium on evictions for inability to pay rent during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Under the court’s order, if tenants can provide evidence of inability to pay because the health crisis has impacted their income, the eviction process will not move forward until the order is lifted.

Landlords seeking a judge’s assistance to have tenants removed for non-payment would be told to wait, and law enforcement would not be deployed to force the removal of a tenant. 

Las Cruces community organizer Sarah Silva said the court’s move is good news during uncertain times.

“This is a great step forward to protecting New Mexicans from homelessness. As a renter, I’m grateful to have this help if I and my family need it. As a community organizer, I hope that property management companies will take initiative on reaching out to tenants and giving us the ability to defer payment for at least two months without having to go to court,” Silva said.

Mountain View Co-Op employee Dasha Lilly said her family is already feeling the pinch of the pandemic.

“Overall, [the order] will help a lot,” Lilly said. ”Dom no longer has income from working at the bar, and I have gotten my hours cut, which hits us pretty hard, not knowing if we'll be able to make the full portion of rent on top of making sure we have the needs to keep us afloat through all this.”

Lilly said having children in the house complicates the matter even further.

“With kids, it's the debate on do we save the money for rent, or do we buy diapers if we can find any? Do we save money for rent, or do we get the shampoo and conditioner. We’re to the point of reaching out to other family members and seeing who can help, which is nice but stressful.”

Former Mayor Ruben Smith manages two properties near downtown. He said he’s in “total support” of the court’s ruling.

“I’m actually a step ahead of them,” Smith said. “I’m already working with people. My view is that we all have to work together and get to the other side of this and then see how we can proceed. It’s almost a no-brainer. Simple common sense says that people are struggling. And I’m going to evict them? Ridiculous.”

The Bulletin reached out to two large property management firms in Las Cruces for comment, but neither responded before the print deadline.

 “New Mexicans are struggling financially as workplaces close because of the public health emergency,” said Chief Justice Judith K. Nakamura. “The court’s order will provide temporary relief for families and individuals facing the possibly of losing their housing at a time when the governor and public health officials have ordered New Mexicans to remain at home to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

The court’s order is the latest restriction and precautionary measure imposed on operations of state courts to protect public safety and safeguard the health of New Mexicans.

Other measures provide New Mexican additional time to pay fines and fees, require the use of audio and video teleconferencing for court proceedings that need to continue and allow self-represented litigants to submit case filings to local courts by email and fax to help them avoid courthouse visits.