Blocking Lockouts

Free eviction prevention legal clinic for Santa Fe renters planned for Saturday

Santa Fe city officials, along with a handful of community organizations, are hosting a legal clinic for renters on Saturday in anticipation of the end of New Mexico’s eviction moratorium, which has been in place for nearly two years.

The state Supreme Court is lifting its pause on evictions for non-payment sometime in March, as announced on Jan. 4, though no firm date has been set. The City of Santa Fe has its own moratorium that’s tied to the statewide ban and is expected to end at the same time.

An eviction diversion program that officials piloted in Curry and Roosevelt counties in February, set to expand statewide this month, will take the moratorium’s place. Training of municipal court judges and court employees is ongoing, officials say.

Under the program, judges are supposed to inform landlords and tenants at the start of hearings about how it works. Judges also are supposed to tell renters and property owners about federally funded emergency rent assistance being administered by the state. (Officials and organizers told SFR last fall that there hadn’t been enough government outreach to raise awareness of the funds and that the application was too complicated.)

The diversion program is voluntary for landlords, who may proceed with evictions if they decide not to participate.

But if both parties opt in, judges will put their cases on hold for a minimum of 60 days and dismiss them in the event of a settlement.

Saturday’s clinic aims to give Santa Feans free legal advice and renters’ rights education, plus help applying for rent assistance.

“There are a number of groups coming together to work in collaboration so that we can reduce the negative impacts on our renters and bring landlords into a conversation about what we do going forward as the moratorium expires,” Mayor Alan Webber said at a news conference held by local community group Chainbreaker Collective on Tuesday.

LEGAL CLINIC: 11 am to 3 pm Saturday, March 5. Genoveva Chavez Community Center, 3221 Rodeo Road.

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