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Sanford woman's attempt to avoid eviction denied by judge

Posted September 22, 2020 5:42 p.m. EDT

Sanford woman’s attempt to avoid eviction denied by judge

A Sanford woman tried to use a federal moratorium on evictions to stay in her home, but she said a local judge rejected her case.

In September, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ordered a halt to evictions until the end of the year. It's an effort to stop the spread of coronavirus and to protect those who can't pay rent because of the pandemic.

Marilyn Hoffman has been volunteering at the Bread of Life Ministries in Sanford. The homeless shelter has provided her with meals in exchange for her work in the food pantry and clinic.

It's helping her stay in the home she's been renting for $649 a month since February. But in late March, she said a group home where she worked as an aide shut down because of coronavirus.

"I was looking for work in other places, but I couldn’t find nothing because Gov. Cooper shut everything down," said Hoffman.

Then, on Sep. 8, the sheriff's office served her with an eviction notice. That's when she learned of the CDC's moratorium on evictions. It allowed tenants fill out a declaration saying they are unable to pay rent because of lost income resulting from coronavirus or from major medical expenses.

She then appeared before a Lee County magistrate.

"He said it does not apply to me. That’s what the magistrate told me. He put a judgement that I have to pay all this back rent -- $3,000," Hoffman explained.

She added that the judge told her that because she wasn't in federally subsidized housing, she's not eligible.

But in fact, the moratorium applies to all renters.

Kathryn Sabbath, a law professor at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, said under the order, tenants were only required to fill out the CDC document, present it to their landlords and use it in court.

"The order states that the tenant must swear that these things are true under penalty of perjury. There are no guarantees in life, and judges are human, but the judge should not go forward with the case at that point," explained Sabbath.

"I will pay the rent. It's not like I'm not trying to pay him. If I had it, I will pay it. Let's work together on this," said Hoffman.

An anonymous donor gave Hoffman $500 so she could appeal.

She'll stay in her home at least through early November.

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