The end of a federal moratorium on evictions resulted in a large spike in the number of cases being taken to court to evict people from their rental homes.

Knox County Sheriff Tim Carroll said the department has paperwork for 26 cases in different stages of the eviction process. Normally, before the moratorium, there would be no more than 10 evictions handled at a time.

The sheriff told Knox County Commissioners Sept. 14 that the filings are coming in fast and furious.

“It’s concerning,” Carroll said.

The spike in evictions come as the Midcoast faces a growing crisis of a lack of affordable housing. Both the costs of rent and home prices are rising rapidly, putting the cost out of the reach for a majority of Knox County residents.

The Sheriff’s offices in Maine are tasked by state law with serving paperwork to people being evicted. The process is for landlords to go to court and get paperwork that must be served to tenants. Court hearings are scheduled, and the judge will order the two parties to meet with a mediator. If no agreement can be reached, a hearing is held.

There were 11 hearings — formally known as forcible entry and detainer hearings — held Feb. 14 in the Knox County court.

If the court rules in favor of the landlord, a writ of possession is then issued, and that is served on tenants by the Sheriff’s Office, ordering them to leave the premises.

If tenants don’t leave, then the tenants could face criminal charges for criminal trespass.

Sheriff Carroll said the 26 cases are throughout the county, though many are based in the more populated communities like Rockland.

A federal moratorium was in place starting September 2020 on order of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for people who lost income due to the pandemic. The agency wanted to avoid evictions to prevent people from being thrown out of their homes during the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The moratorium ended near the end of August, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the CDC exceeded its authority. Landlords, real estate companies, and trade associations challenged the moratorium.

The federal government did provide states with money to offer to eligible tenants to help pay for rent.