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Politics & Government

Justice of the Peace Court prepares for possible backlog as evictions allowed to resume

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Delaware Public Media
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Evictions and foreclosures are allowed to resume in Delaware again Wednesday under the latest change to Gov. John Carney’s Emergency Order.

Residential evictions and foreclosures were suspended in Delaware back in March and landlords have been prevented from charging late fees or interest during Delaware’s State of Emergency. 

Carney says he’s handing the eviction and foreclosure process back to the courts.

“That’s the appropriate process for these matters,” he said. “It’s a separate branch of government. So we want to get to a place where the appropriate responsibilities are in effect.”     

The state’s Justice of the Peace Court has been preparing to deal with a potential backlog of cases, made more difficult by the decreased occupancy allowed in courtrooms during the pandemic.  

Chief Magistrate Alan Davis says he doesn’t know what caseload to expect as the court reopens, but adds the court is setting up a new online alternative dispute resolution process to help landlords and tenants avoid trial.

“Just think of it as emailing each other back and forth to try to come to some resolution,” said Davis. “If they can, that’s great take the case off the docket. If they’re not able to, the parties can request a mediator be assigned to the case at any time.”     

Davis says part of the process will include allowing mediators to access housing support services through the Delaware State Housing Authority (DSHA) for qualifying tenants if needed.

That agency, along with the state Department of Justice, announced Wednesday a $15 million safety net in federal funds for qualifying Delawareans facing eviction during the pandemic, as well as an educational campaign for Delaware renters.

“Without these critical programs and a pot of money you risk adding to the Delaware homeless population,” said Carrie Casey, Manager of the New Castle County Division of Community Development and Housing.

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