Are evictions allowed during a pandemic?

Are evictions allowed during a pandemic?

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Several people have contacted WTOC to say their work hours have been cut and they’re struggling to pay rent. They say this is because of the economic downturn since the coronavirus pandemic began.

You asked if evictions are allowed during an emergency order? Other cities in Georgia have pleaded with landlords to pause evictions because of the coronavirus pandemic. And that plea has also happened here in Savannah, but what exactly does that mean?

In response to the question, the Savannah City Attorney sent this statement:

"The City simply does not have any authority to pause evictions even under Emergency Powers. (It) can urge all landlords to be sympathetic during this truly unprecedented time."

That message of sympathy expressed yesterday by Mayor Van Johnson when he announced the "Shelter at Home" order.

"We have no authority over someone choosing to evict or not evict. We are just asking again for them to be very gracious and understanding and consider the unique circumstance people are facing. People are being laid off,” Mayor Johnson said.

In Chatham County - which includes Savannah - the Magistrate Court handles the legal process for evictions.

Right now, a clerk at the magistrate court says they are not processing eviction requests. That decision is based on a March 14 judicial emergency order from the Supreme Court of Georgia to suspend all but essential court functions.

As for enforcement, Chatham County Sheriff John Wilcher says for now this is how his deputies are handling it.

"Spoken to the judge in magistrate court and we decided we are not doing any evictions until this coronavirus is over with. I'm not going to put anyone in the street or anything else. People are being laid off. They don't have jobs,” Wilcher said.

Something to note: A landlord can still file the court paperwork to begin the eviction process. But for now, the court simply will accept the filing.

In Chatham County, the magistrate’s office says the number of those requests are right where they normally are for this time of the year.

Copyright 2020 WTOC. All rights reserved.