CNMI Government proposes legislation suspending foreclosures and evictions during COVID-19 emergency

(PNC file photo)

CNMI Governor Ralph DLG. Torres and Lt. Governor Arnold I. Palacios recently proposed draft legislation that would effectively suspend evictions and foreclosures in the Commonwealth during the COVID-19 public health emergency and CNMI state of significant emergency to the Northern Marianas Commonwealth Legislature.

Governor Torres and Lt. Governor Palacios worked on this draft legislation with Attorney General Edward Manibusan, Senate President Victor B. Hocog, House Speaker Blas Jonathan “BJ” T. Attao, and Precinct 4 Representative Joel C. Camacho, Chairman of the Committee on Judiciary and Governmental Operations.

In his message to the Legislature, Governor Torres underscored the importance of this legislation during this vulnerable time for residents in the Marianas.

“As you know, many residents and businesses have suffered a loss of income as a result of government-ordered restrictions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This bill offers some protection from eviction or foreclosure due to the tenant’s or mortgagor’s inability to pay,” said Torres.

He noted the bill takes two steps to prevent evictions and foreclosures.

“First, it prevents landlords and mortgagees from commencing eviction and foreclosure actions by prohibiting them from evicting or foreclosing on a tenant or mortgagor foreclosure based on nonpayment of the rent or mortgage. Second, in the event the landlord or mortgagee has already obtained a court order prior to the enactment of the law, the bill prevents any person from enforcing a writ of possession or judgment of foreclosure sale,” the Governor said.

Accordingly, the bill would restrict evictions and foreclosures at their commencement (the filing of a court action) and at their culmination (enforcement of court-ordered writ of possession or judgment of foreclosure sale). Violation of this law would result in a fine or imprisonment. The Office of the Attorney General would be the lead enforcement agency.

Lt. Governor Palacios said the administration and Legislature leadership will continue to utilize a whole-of-government approach to protect residents during this unprecedented time.

“This legislation is one of many priorities to protect our community during this global pandemic. In addition to our work on the public health side, we will do everything we can to push for more assistance and relief for residents with our federal partners, as well as enact local policies to protect our people from additional uncertainty,” said Lt. Governor Palacios.

“Governor Torres and I will keep the Marianas updated moving forward.”