Idaho courts offer new tool for renters facing eviction
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The Idaho Supreme Court has a new online tool to resolve disputes between tenants and landlords that could help renters avoid becoming homeless.
The court announced the tool Wednesday ahead of the ending of an nationwide eviction moratorium put in place by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help tenants unable to make rent payments during the pandemic and prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The moratorium ends July 31.
The tool gives landlords and tenants in new eviction cases the opportunity to resolve their disputes outside court. It uses software that guides parties through a negotiation process and offers referrals to agencies that provide rental assistance.
The court plans to test the new tool in Ada County, which includes Boise, before making it statewide.
“Partly, this is about getting ahead of a number we don’t know much about: How many evictions are not being filed because the federal moratorium expires at the end of the month?” Idaho Supreme Court Communications Manager Nate Poppino told the Idaho Statesman.
Poppino said Idaho court officials sought advice from a handful of other states, including Florida, New Mexico and Iowa, that were using dispute resolution tools, though not always for renter-landlord disputes.
Idaho has so far spent about $21 million of the $190 million received in federal coronavirus rescue money to help with outstanding rent, utility payments and other expenses.
But homeless advocates say documentation and a lack of internet access to participate in online court hearings have stymied many renters. Those evicted face a tough housing market as home prices and rents have risen sharply with Idaho’s rapid population growth.
Jesse Tree is a Boise nonprofit that provides rental assistance. Its executive director, Ali Rabe, said some renters owe thousands of dollars in rent dating back to the beginning of the pandemic.
“From my experience, when landlords take tenants to court, they want to get paid,” Rabe said. “That will definitely continue to be a challenge.”
Rabe said eviction filings in southwestern Idaho have averaged 20 to 30 a month despite the moratorium.