SOUTH ROYALTON — From the backyard of their modest 850-square-foot home on Vermont Route 14, Chris McPhetres and Wendy Mahmood can look down upon a branch of the White River, verdant farm fields and woods.
The view is a lot less bucolic in the other direction. Plainly visible out front is the detritus packed onto the porch of a small 1938 schoolhouse, now a home that McPhetres has been renting out since 2008.
The two would like to evict their tenant, who they said hasn’t paid her $950/month rent since March and whose lease ran out at the end of August. But new renter stabilization rules that went into effect as a result of Covid are making it nearly impossible for them to do so.
Their five security cameras, which Mahmood monitors while working her day job for the state in Montpelier, show a steady stream of visitors, some from out of state. Police are regular visitors to the schoolhouse. The two tell of headlights shining on their bedroom ceiling late at night, and of cars blocking their driveway.
To get their money for the unpaid rent, the two could take advantage of new state programs designed to help renters and landlords. But if they take full payment of rent from the state, they must pledge not to evict the tenant, and that’s not something they’re willing to do. The two filed an eviction notice in August, though they said they haven’t received a response.
They’re willing to forgo the nearly $6,000 in unpaid rent in favor of having peace restored on their land.
“I just want her gone,” said McPhetres. “This is one property that will never be rented again.”
Despite repeated calls, the tenant could not be reached for comment.
Evictions blocked in Vermont and nationally
Mahmood and McPhetres make up a small subset of the Vermont landlords operating under rules created to counteract some of the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and economic shutdown.
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The Legislature enacted a law in May that imposed a moratorium on evictions to help tenants stay in their homes. Congress approved a national eviction moratorium as well in March. Though that has expired, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control on Sept. 4 issued a new national eviction moratorium effective Sept. 1 through Dec. 31.