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Government, Politics & Issues

Judge Orders To Halt Evictions In St. Louis County Through June 30

One of the topics of the 2018 Fair Housing Conference was on finding was to reduce the number of evictions in St. Louis.
David Kovaluk
/
St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis County Presiding Judge Michael Burton issued an ordinance on April 29 to temporarily stop the county’s sheriff office from executing residential evictions through the end of June. On Tuesday, the St. Louis County Council passed legislation that protects renters and homeowners from eviction until June 30, as long as they are trying to make their payments.

Updated April 30 with new county judge order

St. Louis County Presiding Judge Michael Burton issued an order Thursday to temporarily stop the county’s sheriff office from executing residential evictions through June 30. This order falls in line with the St. Louis County Council’s vote on Tuesday to stop evictions and keep people in their homes during a pandemic.

Residents must provide a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Eviction Moratorium Declaration to their landlords to receive temporary relief under the judge’s order.

Original story from April 27

The St. Louis County Council has voted to temporarily halt most residential evictions in the county.

The proposal adopted Tuesday night is meant to provide a level of protection if the courts overturn an eviction moratorium from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. To be eligible, renters or homeowners would have to prove that they have made an effort to get all governmental assistance possible and have been making at least partial payments. They would also have to face a risk of being homeless or having to live with others if they were evicted. The bill passed 4-2 with one member abstaining.

“I would encourage all of us to get behind this bill and provide what amounts to now, simply another month of protection for those that may well need it,” said Councilman Ernie Trakas, R-St. Louis County.

County Presiding Judge Michael Burton allowed evictions to resume April 5, citing a backlog of 600 cases. As of April 23, there had been 23 evictions carried out. Another 116 were stopped for a variety of reasons, including the protections available under the CDC moratorium.

A spokeswoman for Burton said the judge had no comment on Tuesday’s vote.

Because the bill failed to get five yes votes, it cannot take effect until May 13 at the earliest, and is set to expire June 30. But every little bit helps, said Councilwoman Lisa Clancy, D-Maplewood.

“There’s much more we all need to do in the coming weeks and months to address this eviction crisis,” she said.

The other two Republicans on the council, Tim Fitch of St. Louis County and Mark Harder of Ballwin, voted no over concerns about the legality of the ordinance.

“I don’t want to add any more legal bills to our county at this point,” Harder said, a reference to a debate earlier in the evening over legislation that would have authorized contracts with outside law firms for a number of lawsuits.

And landlords and their attorneys said the bill was one-sided and did not offer them enough protections.

“Those people who are trying are not the ones we are pushing for,” said attorney Matthew Chase, who said he had filed about one-third of the 600 backlogged eviction cases. “There are people using the pandemic and the moratoriums to simply get free rent for as long as possible. Those folks who are trying are being helped.”

The relief comes too late for some, including Charles and Terri Liddell, who are being evicted from their rental home in University City. Charles works as a janitor, and Terri is a teacher’s aide and a preschool teacher. Both had their incomes reduced by the COVID-19 pandemic. Terri Liddell told the council they are having trouble finding another place to live.

“We don’t want to be homeless. We’re not shiftless, lazy people,” she said. “It’s hard for me to get up each day, and tell those babies that they can be anything they want to be, they can do anything they want to do, and I may not have a place to stay that night.”

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann

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