Cowlitz County Superior Court announced it will start a program to help prevent tenants from becoming homeless when the federal and state eviction moratoria lift.
The Eviction Resolution Program will bring landlords and tenants together with trained specialists to explore possible solutions, including accessing rent assistance or creating realistic payment plans, according to the court’s press release.
“This pandemic has been very challenging for tenants and landlords alike,” said Presiding Judge Gary Bashor in the statement. “We are optimistic that this program will assist tenants in maintaining their housing, avoiding potential homelessness and will help make the landlords whole.”
Since February 2020, nearly one million people in Washington have lost their jobs or had employment hours severely cut because of the pandemic, according to the press release. The loss of income has made it impossible for many families and individuals in Cowlitz County and the state to keep up on rental payments.
Gov. Jay Inslee in March 2020 enacted a state eviction moratorium. The governor most recently extended it until June 30 and extended the utility shutoff moratorium through July 31.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an emergency order in September prohibiting new and previously filed evictions. A federal judge in May struck down the moratorium, but stayed her decision pending appeal.
The federal and state moratoria still allow landlords to file eviction cases for reasons other than failure to pay rent. When the orders expire, renters may be asked to pay the amount they have forgone since the order was put in place in March 2020 or be evicted.
The Superior Court program will help tenants retain housing and avoid the legal eviction process while landlords benefit from continuity of occupancy and income, according to the press release.
The program will begin after the state’s eviction moratorium has ended, which is expected to be on or around June 30.
Lower Columbia CAP has several programs offering financial assistance for housing expenses. Each program has different qualifications, priorities and funding restrictions. Staff are reviewing the needs of each applicant so they can access the resources best suited for their situation, according to the organization.
To apply for a program or check their status on a list, residents can call the organization’s COVID-19 assistance line at 360-425-3430, extension 288. Applicants should check their voicemail frequently and promptly return calls from CAP to help move the process more quickly.