By Saira Bajwa, Solutions Specialist
Even with a federal moratorium on evictions during the height of the pandemic, tenants in many places remain at risk of eviction.
Evictions wreak havoc on families even in the best of times. But, when tenants seek shelter with friends, family, or on the streets during a pandemic, the threats to public safety increase. Scientists have created a model that estimates the danger of removing people from their homes during the most active phases of the pandemic. Even a low eviction rate would result in 15,000 extra cases annually of COVID-19.
This collection highlights initiatives that train tenants on their legal rights, help them fight evictions or resolve disputes with landlords, and one response that turned eviction enforcers into tenant-helpers. In the midst of rising eviction filings, these solutions have allowed people to remain housed when it’s imperative to #stayhome for the sake of public health.
- How is technology being used to decrease eviction rates?
- How are individuals like Kristen Randall changing the relationship between law enforcement and evictions?
- Which community organizations or non-profits are stepping up to educate tenants about evictions and navigating the court systems?
- Educating tenants about their rights and increasing access to support services are key components of many eviction interventions. Can you summarize and explain the importance of these efforts using the SJN Success Factors within the "Attacking Root Causes" category?
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ARTICLE SUMMARIES AND THEMES:
Rebel constables present one ray of hope for tenants. Armed with guns, constables in Tucson, Arizona typically change the locks after renters have vacated – but a growing number have decided to enforce federal orders, bringing resources instead. Constables oversee the last step of the evictions but many renters don’t stick around that long - the initial eviction filing alone often scares renters away. Landlords typically hire lawyers in eviction cases, while the majority of tenants arrive in court without any legal assistance, leaving them at a disadvantage.
Virtual services have filled that gap with free legal advice through lawtech: technology that provides legal aid. Hello Landlord and Rentervention both use software to automate letters to landlords as well as other paperwork needed to fight an eviction. In Cleveland, one group is taking the face-to-face approach, making house visits to inform tenants about their options and connect them with resources to help keep them housed. Mandated mediation between landlords and tenants prior to eviction filings in Philadelphia is helping both sides reach agreements that keeps people in safe housing, particularly during the pandemic.
- Free digital tools like Hello Landlord ask tenants a series of simple questions to generate the form letters that landlords need to receive in order to avoid, postpone, or mitigate eviction proceedings. Similarly, Rentervention is an online chatbot that educates tenants about their rights and connects them to legal services for eviction cases. This technology makes legal knowledge and services more accessible to populations that otherwise cannot access it.
- Constable Kristen Randall exchanged her tactical gear, gun, and badge for casual clothes and "courtesy visits" to determine how much tenants knew about their eviction situation. Randall's approach removes the threatening element and increases tenant willingness to collaborate on finding a solution. Additionally, Randall and several of her colleagues refused to enforce evictions during the height of the pandemic, prioritizing public health over strict legal penalties.
- The Democratic Socialists of American, the Untied Way's Right to Legal Counsel program, and the Legal Aid Society are helping tenants navigate eviction proceedings in Cleveland. Many tenants were completely unaware that their landlords had begun the eviction process before they received a visit from the DSA.
- Answers will vary - success factors under the "Attacking Root Causes" umbrella include attacking social determinants, helping instead of punishing, and using a comprehensive approach.