Tenants And Landlords Can Now Negotiate Evictions Online In Ada County
The Idaho Supreme Court has unveiled a new online tool to help resolve some eviction cases in Ada County as a federal moratorium halting evictions expires at the end of this month.
Landlords and tenants can negotiate their eviction cases through the free, web-based program using a computer or phone. Only cases where a tenant fails to pay rent are eligible to use it.
Magistrate Judge Adam Kimball handles eviction cases in Ada County and said the tool gives both sides flexibility.
“They can negotiate sort of on their own schedule without having to come down to the courthouse, taking time off work. If they have kids, they can do it in the evening after the kids go down,” Kimball said.
Each side can use the messaging platform to try to resolve the dispute before a case goes to mediation or trial. Kimball said any communication between landlords, tenants, or their lawyers through the tool would not be admissible in court if negotiations are unsuccessful.
The program also connects landlords and tenants with resources to help repay back rent.
Sen. Ali Rabe (D-Boise) runs the nonprofit Jesse Tree, which helps tenants avoid evictions.
“With an eviction on your record, you can be precluded from job and housing opportunities for the rest of your life,” Rabe said.
She said she’s glad tenants have another option, but she’d like to see more done to help people navigate the eviction process, like assigning them a lawyer.
The number of eviction hearings in Ada and Canyon counties has held stable through the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Rabe. Both counties combined have held 450 hearings in 2021. That’s despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention putting in place a national moratorium on evictions last September.
Instead, she said landlords aren’t renewing leases, are ending month-to-month agreements with tenants, or substantially raising rent prices to avoid going to court.
The federal moratorium ends July 31.
“We really don’t know what’s going to happen, whether there’s going to be an uptick or whether things will stay the same,” Rabe said.
Landlords or tenants interested in the pilot program can find more information at the county’s website, along with several other housing assistance and legal resources.
The Idaho Supreme Court hopes to expand the tool statewide if the pilot program is successful. It’s scheduled to run into early fall.
Court officials are currently paying $4,000 per month for the system. The annual cost would add up to $100,000 if it’s expanded.
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