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Evictions in Mecklenburg County rising back to pre-pandemic levels

Forced evictions are steadily rising in Mecklenburg County and are nearly back to pre-pandemic levels, based on new data from the Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office.

In response to a request from WFAE, the sheriff's office provided data showing the number of writs of possession the office received on a monthly basis dating back to August 2019.

The data provides a window into the number of forced — or court-ordered — evictions in Mecklenburg County, though it doesn't include cases where tenants leave without court intervention, or before the sheriff's office receives a landlord's writ of possession, allowing deputies to padlock the home.

The data show eviction filings received by the sheriff's office have more than tripled since the federal eviction moratorium ended in August 2021. That month, the sheriff's office received 262 filings, compared to 883 filings in August 2022.

By comparison, the sheriff's office received 1006 eviction filings in August of 2019, before the pandemic struck.

Cases even surpassed pre-pandemic levels in January 2022, when the sheriff's office received 1,018 filings, compared to 921 in January 2020.

"We have seen over the last few months like a small increase, month by month, and now we're back to where we are, and we're afraid we're going beyond that," said Isaac Sturgill, a staff attorney with Legal Aid of North Carolina, which handles eviction cases statewide.

Sturgill said the majority of cases his group sees involve nonpayment of rent, and he said rising rents have been worsening the problem. Average rents in the Charlotte area have risen 14.5% over the past twelve months, according to ApartmentList.com. That's above the state average of 14.2% and the national average of 10%.

Sturgill also said eviction court cases his group sees disproportionately involve tenants of color, especially African American women.

His best advice for tenants who have received an eviction notice is to seek out rental assistance and legal help as soon as possible.

If a tenant loses in court, Sturgill says, North Carolina law gives the tenant ten days to file an appeal. If the tenant files the appeal and resumes paying rent, they can often remain in their home until the court can hear their appeal — often three or four months later. Sturgill said his organization often helps tenants fill out appeals and navigate the court process.

Mecklenburg County's emergency rental assistance program, RAMP CharMeck, is accepting new applications for rental assistance between the first and 15th of each month.

The program is only accepting applications from Mecklenburg County residents with an official eviction notice and an assigned court date, or those earning less than 60% of the area's median income — or about $39,600 for an individual, or about $56,520 for a family of four.

Eligible households can receive up to 12 months of rental assistance, plus an additional three months if funds allow.

Crisis Assistance Ministriesis also offering emergency rental assistance to Mecklenburg County residents in need. Applications must be made in person at the nonprofit's office at 500-A Spratt St.

Residents who are facing a court-ordered eviction will receive priority over people who have late notices for rent and have not yet been in court.

Nick de la Canal is the host of Weekend Edition on Saturday/Sunday mornings, and a reporter covering breaking news, arts and culture, and general assignment stories. His work frequently appears on air and online. Periodically, he tweets: @nickdelacanal