By Divya Shiv, Research and Policy Analyst
February 14, 2022
Our families and communities are safer and can thrive best when everyone has a warm, healthy place to live. However, as many as 80,000 New Mexicans are at risk of eviction – that’s equivalent to almost the entire population of Sante Fe. Worse, approximately 16 families get evicted every day in the state. Fortunately, the Legislature has an opportunity to help New Mexicans by enacting House Bill 65 – sponsored by Reps. Andrea Romero, Angelica Rubio, Kristina Ortez, and Linda Serrato – before the 2022 legislative session ends.
HB 65 supports New Mexico families by updating the landlord-tenant law to extend the eviction timeline, helping renters stay housed and landlords get paid. This is important because New Mexico currently has some of the shortest eviction time frames in the country, which makes it hard for tenants to get access to rental assistance and become current on their rent before the eviction proceedings begin. HB 65 also limits the amount of the late fees tenants can be charged, providing renters with more protections.
During the pandemic, families with children have been at a greater risk of facing eviction, and evictions are especially traumatizing for children. Chronic residential mobility negatively impacts children’s mental health and educational attainment. Conversely, children who are in stable housing have lower incarceration rates and higher salaries as adults. Due to decades of racial inequities, families of color are at an even greater risk of losing their rental homes.
Evictions are harmful for families in and of themselves, but they also result in a series of negative outcomes that impact our communities. For example, when evictions result in homelessness, that places a financial burden on local governments and shelters. In addition, people who get evicted are more likely to lose their jobs, more likely to experience worse physical and mental health, and less likely to find safe, affordable housing in the future. This is even more concerning given that the negative impact of evictions can persist for two years or more after an eviction takes place, due in part to the fact that landlords are less likely to rent to tenants who have been evicted.
Evictions are also costly for landlords, who must deal with lawyer expenses, filing fees, lost rent from vacancies, listing the unit and interviewing applicants, and preparing the unit for the next tenant. Under current law, tenants only have three days to catch up on late rent before a landlord can start eviction proceedings. By enacting HB 65 and lengthening the time before a landlord can file an eviction case, tenants would have more time to find ways to pay their late rent, such as through the state’s rental assistance program, and landlords could avoid the financial burden of an eviction.
Increased tenant protections can also go hand-in-hand with an increased development of affordable housing. New Jersey, for example, has historically had some of the lowest eviction rates in the country and only allows landlords to evict for “just cause.” At the same time, the state is currently experiencing its largest development boom since the 1980s. Tenant protections and an increased housing supply are both achievable, and there is no need to choose between them.
New Mexico cannot have a full economic recovery when so many of our families do not know if they will have a place to sleep every night. The time has come for the Legislature to ensure that New Mexico families stay housed by enacting HB 65.