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NM Supreme Court temporarily halts evictions due to coronavirus

Residents have to show evidence to court they cannot pay rent

Joshua Kellogg
Farmington Daily Times
  • The New Mexico Supreme Court on March 24 issued an order that judges who preside over eviction proceedings can halt evictions.
  • No orders had been issued from Governor Michele Lujan Grisham's Office regarding evictions.
  • Cities like Santa Fe had halted residential and commercial evictions.

FARMINGTON — The state Supreme Court has issued a temporary order to halt evictions as people are struggling to pay their rent during the coronavirus pandemic, potentially saving the lives of families as they struggled with possible job loss.

The New Mexico Supreme Court on March 24 issued an order that judges who preside over eviction proceedings can "stay the execution of writs of restitution" issued on March 24 or after for non-payment of rent, according to a New Mexico Administrative Office of the Courts press release.

The order states renters will need to show evidence to the courts they cannot pay their rent.

Chief Justice Judith Nakamura said in a statement that New Mexicans are struggling due to the public health emergency as places of employment close.

“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," according to Justice Nakamura.

No orders had been issued from Governor Michele Lujan Grisham's Office regarding evictions. Cities like Santa Fe had halted residential and commercial evictions.

Farmington resident Tina Wells told The Daily Times she thinks the court order is great as it'll keep people off the street and help protect those struggling with finances from the coronavirus.

Wells contacted The Daily Times on the morning of March 24 because she was concerned about an upcoming eviction hearing in Farmington Magistrate Court.

She was served an eviction notice on March 6 and was worried about being arrested if she failed to show up for court.

Wells said she has underlying health conditions including severe asthma and is concerned about her safety.

Kevin Kiser, a Senior New Mexico Attorney for DNA Legal Services in Farmington, said he had not seen an increase in calls regarding evictions but anticipated an increase after April 1.

"It's extremely important. It's going to save lives," San Juan United Way Executive Director Cathryn Abeyta said about the order

While checking voicemails at the organization's office, Abeyta noticed an increase of calls from people concerned about evictions.

As businesses closed, Abeyta was concerned about residents losing their income, and  that would make it difficult for them to pay their rent.

She added San Juan County had a high rate of poverty and a high rate of people struggling to keep their children sheltered before the coronavirus became a pandemic.

The order will help people stay healthy and keep families in their homes, Abeyta said.

She believes there will be solution for property owners to recoup lost rental income.

Joshua Kellogg covers breaking news for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at jkellogg@daily-times.com.

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