NORWAY — When the coronavirus led to a shutdown of the U.S. economy in 2020, one of the protective programs launched in response was the eviction moratorium that kept millions of newly unemployed Americans in their homes while weathering the crisis.

The moratorium required applicants to be diligent in filing forms and reporting their financial setbacks. It also required that landlords be diligent in assisting their tenants navigate the system.

Originally the program was was part of the Federal CARES Act and set to expire on Jan. 1, 2021. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention extended the program through January, then through March, then until June 30 and again through July 31. When the program expired in July and many states took no local actions to protect renters, Congress pressured the CDC to extend it again. Currently, the moratorium will continue through Oct. 3.

The cost of propping up tenants is huge, but it has kept them from becoming homeless during the pandemic. It provides a lifeline to property owners who faced an imploding income and the myriad of service providers who make their living in the housing industry.

Bisco Properties and Western Hills Property Group, Norway-based property management companies, both say the program has succeeded in Oxford Hills.

“It has been good,” said Tony Morra of Bisco Properties. “It requires cooperation, a bit of babysitting and it’s a slow process.”

Most applications for rent relief in Oxford Hills run through Community Concepts, which processes the paperwork and provides direct payments to landlords. According to Morra the requirements to prove need are tedious and his secretary has added supporting tenants manage it to her daily responsibilities.

“We spend up to 90 minutes a day following up with people to make sure they get everything filed they need to,” Morra said. “People want to pay their rent. Some have not qualified for help. For a few bad apples [assistance has] not been a priority. But I’d say 95% of our renters are doing what [they’re supposed to].”

Bisco manages about 175 rental units and represents more than 50 landlords. He said payments can be slow, coming in two to three weeks late but are preferable to the alternative.

Mark Truman of Western Hills Property Group echoes his colleague. He said it was overwhelming at the beginning of the pandemic and then again at the beginning of 2021 when the moratorium was supposed to end, but currently the process is manageable.

“We’re all following the rules,” Truman said. “We are not charging any tenants late fees. We communicate with them and if Community Concepts say their rent is coming, we will get it. As long as they are making an effort we accept what they can do,” including partial payments at times.

Western Hills Property Group oversees up to 150 rental units in Oxford Hills. Truman could think of only one particular tenant who did not qualify for assistance that been difficult to collect from.

“We try to be flexible, and that has worked for everyone.”

The eviction moratorium has kept people in their homes and contributing to local economies rather than tapping support resources, but for those who are looking for new places to rent times are still difficult.

People are staying put for the most part, Truman said. A few have made the jump from renter to homeowner, but most are wary of the skyrocketing home prices.

On the flip side, Morra estimated that about 10% of landlords with Bisco are listing or considering selling their properties because of the hot market.

“There are a lot of people looking to rent and there is not a lot available for them,” Morra said, noting that most inquiries come from locals. “Only a few have been from away. Those are the ones buying.”

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