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Woman who got COVID-19, lost her job and came within hours of being evicted

A Maryland woman who suffered from COVID-19 and lost her job came within hours of getting evicted.

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A Maryland woman who suffered from COVID-19 and lost her nursing home job came within hours of getting evicted.

"I was sitting on my bed, calling different shelters," Joanne Williams said.

Williams believed everything was fine. She and her landlord applied for and received rental assistance funds from Baltimore City's Rental Assistance and Eviction Protection program.

But her distress returned after she found a court order taped to a banister at her house. It was an eviction notice from the sheriff.

"It's hard. My chest been hurting. I'm scared. I couldn't go to sleep," Williams said.

She immediately called her landlord.

"I told him, 'How am I going to move out? I can hardly walk on my own and I don't have any money to go out and find a house to move in,'" Williams said.

Under the rental assistance agreement, the landlord received $12,000 — a full year's worth of back rent — and he could not file a new eviction case against Williams for 90 days.

"The grant agreement a landlord signs when they get the money from the city specifically states all pending cases they have should be dismissed," said Albert Turner, an attorney with the Public Justice Center.

Sister station WBAL contacted the landlord, who said a judge in rent court ruled in August in his favor. In September, he received the city funds and followed the no-eviction policy. He said he scheduled the eviction in December but was unaware the policy also called for him to dismiss the earlier case.

Williams' attorney and the city warned the landlord that evicting her would violate the document he signed and he could face legal action.

"If it wasn't for my intervening or the city's intervening, he would have gone through with the eviction regardless if he had known or not," Turner said.

The landlord told WBAL: "I called the sheriff's office and canceled the eviction. Legally, I cannot evict her."

According to the Baltimore City Sheriff's Office, 426 evictions were scheduled to take place this week, but none were enforced Monday and Tuesday because of winter weather. So far, the sheriff's office completed 30 evictions and more are scheduled for Friday.

Tenant advocates understand rental assistance funds and the 90-day no-eviction policy are just stopgap measures.

"We are looking at a continuous situation where a tenant is just holding on for dear life for a couple of months, and then (they're) right back in the situation where they were in," Turner said.

"I feel relief that everything worked out for the best," Williams said.