LUDLOW, Mass. (WWLP) – The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the risk for eviction and foreclosure as millions of Americans lost their jobs over the past year.
A state moratorium on evictions ended on October 17, 2020. It prevented most from happening for months during the pandemic. Since it expired, thousands of notices to quit have been sent out to people who live in Hampden County. But, the Sheriff’s Department is working to keep as many of these people from being evicted as possible.
Hampden County Sheriff Nick Cocchi and his department are in charge of enforcing a judge’s eviction order. Deputies make sure the tenant leaves the property. They used to average three evictions a day – now it’s down to about one a week.
“It’s not a service we provide without understanding the feelings behind it and how emotional and how derailing this can be to a family,” Sheriff Cocchi told the 22News I-Team. “I will never let somebody sleep outside if they are evicted.”
Instead of just removing people from their home, the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department works with community organizations to offer tenants help. The office has an employment and housing specialist that will try to relocate people into other housing options – many times visiting them two to three times before the final notice to evict. Then during the eviction, the Sheriff’s Department sends this specialist out with the deputies to try to offer them a safe place to stay, even if it’s short term.
“We’re not going to provide refuge, or we are not going to provide an opportunity for people to skate the system,” Sheriff Cocchi said. “We still have to uphold the integrity of the system.”
Cocchi said this system includes landlords, who in many cases, haven’t been paid in months.
“There were a lot of landlords that had no income, no ability to pay their bills, yet, they were still supposed to pay their real estate taxes, insurance, mortgage,” explained Douglas Quattrochi, the executive director of Mass Landlords.
Quattrochi said the eviction moratorium was a smart public health move but –
“It would have been much better if, by design, that eviction moratorium also came with rental payments so that housing providers could keep these places going.”
Sheriff Cocchi said the way his Department deals with evictions helps keep people in their homes, and gets landlords paid.
“I have a job to do and we are going to do it, but how we do it is even more important,” the Sheriff said. “We are going to do it with compassion and humanity, and we are going to do it in the best interests of all parties. We are going to try to help.”
“Landlords don’t really want to be evicting people, Quattrochi explained. ” Landlords want to be paid for the housing they provide.”
A federal moratorium on evictions has been extended through June. To qualify, a renter needs to fill out a form from the CDC that proves they are trying to get financial help paying their rent.