Part 5 of the Eviction Epidemic series

Are you struggling to make rent? Click here for information on where to find help.

For the past year and a half, New Mexico landlords have continued to try to evict tenants, despite some of the most stringent pandemic-era restrictions anywhere in the country. The U.S. Supreme Court in late August ended a federal ban on evictions, but a state moratorium remains in place, barring landlords from removing people for inability to make rent.

Thousands of New Mexicans have been affected by the economic turmoil of the pandemic — tens of thousands lost their jobs as government restrictions shuttered businesses, and the state unemployment rate jumped from 5.4 percent in March 2020 to 12.5 percent in July of that year. Less cash meant a higher risk of eviction, which not only destabilizes families but also poses a danger to public health.  

Searchlight New Mexico analyzed court records to quantify the number of evictions filed by landlords during the pandemic, as well as for the past 10 years. The landlords that filed the most evictions turned out to be large apartment complexes and management companies, not individual people. 

Evictions are allowed by law, and the fact that a landlord filed evictions — no matter the number — doesn’t mean they did anything wrong or illegal. 

And just because a landlord filed a large number of eviction cases doesn’t mean those tenants were all evicted. An eviction filing goes to the local court, where a judge is supposed to hear from both landlord and tenant before deciding what to do.

But even when the tenant is not evicted, the mere presence of a filing on one’s record can make it hard to find housing in the future, advocates say.

“It can actively worsen your life and does actively worsen people’s lives,” Serge Martinez, a law professor at the University of New Mexico, said at a housing and homelessness conference in October.

Removing renters from their homes is relatively easy in New Mexico, with few restrictions and a quick turnaround time. Landlords can file for eviction within a few days of a late payment. Some use evictions liberally, to rid themselves of unwanted tenants or make space for higher-paying renters. 

Here are the 20 companies that filed the most evictions between March 11, 2020 (when Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham declared a state of emergency), and August 31, 2021. Read more details about the data at the end of this story.

NM’s Pandemic Evictors

The landlords listed here are corporate entities — apartment complexes and management companies that might oversee hundreds or thousands of units. As a result, they may file a large number of evictions simply because they have so many tenants to manage. For example, T and C Management, a local Albuquerque company, filed at least 153 eviction cases at about 131 different units. That’s one of the highest number of eviction filings of any landlord in the state during this period. But T and C Management has about 2,000 units, according to owner Chuck Sheldon. Some of them were the subject of multiple eviction filings. All together, Sheldon’s company filed evictions at about 7 percent of the units — a relatively low rate. 

Searchlight New Mexico similarly attempted to calculate eviction filing rates for other landlords but was stymied by a dearth of data. There is no publicly available listing of New Mexico landlords and the number of units they own or manage. And the fact that not all landlords will disclose such information to reporters makes it difficult to fully understand the landscape of housing and evictions.

What the landlords say

Landlords describe challenges of their own. Sheldon of T and C Management works with local social services agencies to rent apartments to tenants who are struggling. “Many of them have fallen on hard times, and therefore we reach out and we help them,” he said. “Sometimes, those folks really work out well and find their compass. And other times, that compass is just misplaced and you have to get rid of them.” 

While T and C Management is a local, family-owned company, some landlords who filed a large number of evictions have roots outside the state. A few buildings are owned by investment companies.

Arioso, for example, a 268-unit apartment building on Albuquerque’s northeast side, is owned by Laguna Point Properties, a California real estate investment firm. Laguna bought the building at 7303 Montgomery Boulevard NE in early 2021 from PacifiCap, a company based in Oregon with properties in several states. 

Another notable eviction filer is Cinnamon Tree, a 398-unit complex on Albuquerque’s southeast side. It is owned by Stoneweg US, a Florida-based real estate investment company that describes itself as an “opportunistic” firm that “seek[s] to deliver attractive, risk-adjusted returns to our investors.” It has more than 13,000 units across the country, including more than 1,000 in New Mexico, and is affiliated with Stoneweg SA, a Swiss-based company that manages over $3 billion in assets.

Cinnamon Tree filed evictions against tenants in at least 85 different units between March 11, 2020, and August 31, 2021 — a figure that amounts to about 1 in 5 of its units overall. Sharmane Bailey, associate director for corporate communications at Stoneweg US, wrote in an email to Searchlight that the company files an eviction “only as a last resort after taking numerous steps to prevent the eviction from occurring.” 

Though corporations account for the state’s largest evictors, court records turn up the occasional individual who fits the bill. For example, in Gallup, local attorney David Jordan’s company filed 13 eviction cases between March 2020 and August 2021.

Some Albuquerque landlords who filed a large number of evictions were in violation of a federal ban, as Searchlight reported in August. These include Arioso and Aztec Village, both of which were owned by PacifiCap at that time. They also include Rising Phoenix, a property near Kirtland Air Force Base that has been plagued with health and safety issues. But the federal government didn’t establish any consequences for landlords who violated the moratorium, leaving tenants with little recourse. 

Searchlight reporters gathered this information about eviction filings from court records. Read more about our methods below.

What steps are required to evict someone?

  1. First, a landlord must notify the tenant of the problem and typically give them a chance to fix it. If the tenant is late on rent, the landlord must give them three days to make good. If the tenant violated the lease, they have seven days to fix the violation. 
  2. After the required time has passed, the landlord can go to court and file paperwork asking the judge to evict the tenant. This is an “eviction filing.” Even just having an eviction filed against you can have negative consequences, including making it more difficult to find a place to live. 
  3. The court then schedules a hearing where the landlord and tenant are each given a chance to tell their side of the story. If the tenant doesn’t show, the judge hears the case anyway, “as though he were present,” according to state law.
  4. The judge decides what to do. The judge might dismiss the case if the landlord fails to show up, if the tenant convinces the judge they were in the right, or if the tenant already moved out. Judges who side with the landlord can issue a “writ of restitution,” a document that empowers the sheriff to forcibly remove the tenant from the home. The tenant can appeal this decision.
  5.  The sheriff may then act on the “removal,” but they may not show up right away. The New Mexico Supreme Court issued an order on March 24, 2020, which states that tenants cannot be removed from their homes solely on the basis of their inability to pay rent. This measure does not prevent any of the previous steps outlined above

During the pandemic, New Mexico landlords filed fewer evictions than in previous months — 464 cases in April, compared with 1,338 cases in February 2020, before restrictions took effect. Filings have increased over the course of the pandemic, with 853 this August, the last month of data analyzed.

A decade of NM evictions

Searchlight put together a list of any landlord or company that has filed 50 or more evictions in the past 10 years. You can search their name in the table below:

New Mexico’s big-time evictors

Are you a tenant struggling to make rent? 

You can apply for federal rental assistance here. People who unsuccessfully applied before may apply again, advocates say.

During the pandemic, many people lost secure housing. If you are homeless, call or text these numbers to get help. They will connect you to a hotline run by the New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness: 

In Albuquerque:
Call: 505-768-HELP

In the rest of the state:
Call: 505-772-0547

On the data

A full methodology and data of eviction cases in New Mexico from the past 10 years can be found here.

The data was collected from 54 courts across New Mexico. Evictions are defined in court databases by case types, including Landlord Tenant, Mobile Home Park and Forcible Detainer. The types of cases included follow the methodology devised by Samuel Taub, a law student at the University of New Mexico. He describes his methodology here.

The tallies represent every eviction case filed between March 11, 2020, and August 31, 2021. Landlords may file multiple evictions against the same person. Searchlight counted these as separate eviction filings.

In several cases, the same landlord appeared under different spellings. (For example: “T and C management” and “T and C management LLC” are the same company.) When summing up the number of evictions per landlord, Searchlight counted these as the same landlord.

Read more from the Eviction Epidemic Series

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