During the COVID pandemic, close to 71,000 evictions were filed in North Carolina courts between March 2020 and February 2021.
DIANE WILSON: A do not enter notice taped to the front door of the place Tmeka Thorpe and her two kids called home since 2019. The Thorpe family recently evicted by the courts, a locksmith changing the locks, despite a CDC Moratorium on evictions.
TMEKA THORPE: I provided her with the CDC declaration form and the courts ruled against me.
DIANE WILSON: Tmeka's troubles started when her lease expired December 1, and her landlord exercised her right to not renew.
TMEKA THORPE: When I received the termination of lease, I still attempted to pay her until the court date. I asked for an extension, I said, can't we just work something out? It's in the middle of a pandemic. She said, I can't take any money from you because I'm taking you to court.
DIANE WILSON: Tmeka tried to prove her case in court, but despite several appeals, she lost. The judge ruling her case considered a hold over, which means her lease expired and the landlord can opt to not renew.
TMEKA THORPE: The court ruled that I had to get out.
DIANE WILSON: And Tmeka is not alone, despite moratoriums. Landlords filed more than 70,000 evictions between March of 2020 and February of 2021. Since July, only 3% of evictions were denied.
JESSE MCCOY: The problem, though, is the CDC moratorium does not protect against hold over evictions.
DIANE WILSON: Jesse McCoy, who runs the Durham County Eviction Diversion Program in partnership with Legal Aid of North Carolina, continues to try and help distressed renters. He says since we are a year into the pandemic, leases are up, and landlords are taking action to circumvent the moratorium.
JESSE MCCOY: I fear that this is going to be the move forward.
DIANE WILSON: The ABC 11 I-team analyzing evictions over the past year, finding in counties like Edgecombe, Cumberland, and Durham, the eviction rate is more than three times higher than the counties with the fewest evictions.
I-team analysis also uncovering counties with the highest eviction rates tend to be poor, and Black or Latino, a finding that unfortunately isn't new.
JESSE MCCOY: Evictions prior to COVID were disproportionately minority.
DIANE WILSON: However, McCoy says the pandemic has impacted more than just the lower income communities.
JESSE MCCOY: We saw a lot of people who were, prior to COVID, considered middle class. Folks who were big time RTP engineers, and all of a sudden couldn't work because of the shutdown. And they too were at risk of being evicted.
DIANE WILSON: While the moratorium wasn't able to protect everyone, the I-team previously finding it did have an impact on eviction filings, as they were down 47% in 2020. Now, experts do expect an influx of evictions happening to thousands of renters once the moratorium expires on March 31.
I'm Troubleshooter Diane Wilson, ABC 11, Eyewitness News.