State foreclosure, eviction prevention programs announced

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Gov. John Carney, Attorney General Kathy Jennings, Delaware State Housing Authority (DSHA) Director Anas Ben Addi and Justice of the Peace Court Chief Magistrate Alan Davis announced a joint effort on foreclosure and eviction prevention for homeowners and renters financially impacted by the Covid-19 shutdown.

“This is still an extremely difficult time for many Delawareans and Delaware families – and this initiative is about continuing to support our neighbors through this COVID-19 crisis,” said Carney. “We need to make sure homeowners and renters throughout our state are aware of their options and know what to do next if they have missed a rent or mortgage payment. We have brought together agencies across our state to more effectively coordinate our efforts and provide real support for Delawareans and Delaware families.”

Carney’s latest modification includes several consumer protections for Delawareans and Delaware families. On Wednesday filings for foreclosures and evictions can resume, but will continue to be stayed to permit the Justice of the Peace Courts to determine whether the parties would benefit from a court-supervised mediation or alternative dispute resolution.

That process may include identifying access to housing support services through the Delaware State Housing Authority. Local sheriffs and constables are directed to refrain from removing individuals from residential properties unless a Delaware court determines that enforcement is necessary in the interest of justice.

In addition, utility companies must offer four-month payment plans to those affected by Coiid-19 who were unable to pay utility bills during the height of the pandemic, and insurance companies must offer 90-day repayment plans for those affected by COVID-19 who failed to make premium payments during the height of the pandemic.

DSHA and the Department of Justice will partner on a comprehensive plan to educate Delaware homeowners and renters on the foreclosure and eviction process

In addition to at least $15 million in initial federal funding for direct housing assistance, DSHA is committing $250,000 and the Department of Justice is committing $100,000 for public awareness efforts and support to advocacy organizations.

“Even as businesses resume operations and more Delawareans get back to work after COVID-19 shutdowns, we know many homeowners and renters in our state are still struggling to keep a roof over their heads. Along with DSHA, we want to make sure that all Delawareans understand the foreclosure and eviction process, that they know all of their rights and responsibilities, and that they are able to consider all of the assistance available to them,” said Jennings.

DSHA and the Department of Justice are working closely with several HUD-approved housing counseling agencies throughout the state, including NCALL, to support increased capacity within those agencies.

The joint effort on eviction prevention will include the below key focus areas:

“This is a great program and the Delaware Judiciary is pleased to be a partner in this joint effort to help people better understand the eviction and foreclosure process, get individuals and families the help they need and ultimately keep people in their homes, particularly during these difficult times,” said Chief Magistrate Davis. “Our new Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) program – which has roots in the Superior Court’s successful mortgage mediation program – will be available for a wide variety of cases, but we expect that a large number of landlord-tenant disputes can be resolved through this process, quickly, fairly and amicably. We also recognize that landlords have a stake here and may also be struggling and we believe this program will help them be made more whole than otherwise might be possible. Finally, this program will be largely online, meaning participants will generally not have to go to court – or a mediator’s office – which is particularly advantageous during this pandemic.”

Support for the state’s legal aid organizations will be made available under funding provided by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. With the funding, organizations like Community Legal Aid Society, Inc. (CLASI) can provide tenants legal representation so they can avoid displacement and homelessness.

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