FARGO, ND — For many North Dakotans, rent is due in only a few days even though many are suddenly without work or a paycheck because of COVID-19 disruptions. Some landlords have been proactive in providing relief and many utilities have promised not to shut off their services. Other landlords sent out letters directing renters that regardless of illness or lost employment, rent is still due on April 1. Some of these letters directed renters to choose between online-only payments or paying a new credit card charge while also saying they will delay maintenance services as a COVD-19 prevention measure.
This call follows leadership by advocates and organizers like High Plains Fair Housing Center who are working to protect the significant number of North Dakotans who are at risk. Over 44% of Cass County residents are renters (2017 American Community Survey – US Census). Statewide, in 2017, 37% of citizens rented, according to the American Community Survey (US Census).
Rep. Mary Schneider, whose constituents are particularly vulnerable during this crisis, said in her call to the governor:
“Through no fault of their own, people have lost their jobs, had their paychecks eliminated or reduced, and have limited or no resources to withstand the crisis. They are petrified about losing their housing and having to find alternative and affordable shelter during a pandemic—or possibly becoming homeless. They are additionally afraid of not being able to recover financially from extra costs, fees, deposits, and penalties from late payments and court actions, even after they are working again. When those folks asked me what I was going to do about their desperate circumstances, I said I would ask you to help.”
The Democratic NPL-Party Chairwoman Kylie Oversen, whose law practice includes social security disability and employment law, said:
“The Governor constantly says that we need to focus on Facts over Fear. Right now, it is a fact that our neighbors are losing their jobs and won’t be able to pay their rent when April 1 rolls around. It is a fact that too many working families are worried about losing their shelter at a time when they need it most.”
“Many of my clients are constantly at risk of losing their homes under normal circumstances. Now, when facing a global public health crisis, the risk is even greater and more alarming. We urge the Governor to take immediate action to ensure all North Dakotans can at least rest assured that they won’t be evicted and left without their basic need of shelter.”