How Legal Aid Lawyers Have Been Preparing for More Evictions

September 1, 2020

Renters have spent the last five months on shifting ground. A federal moratorium on evictions that applies to most housing funded or backed by the federal government, enacted as part of the CARES Act at the beginning of the pandemic, expired at the end of July, with an additional 30 days’ notice required before landlords could begin removing tenants. State moratoriums began expiring earlier in the summer, and only some have been renewed. And municipal and county courts have been making their own rules and procedures for resuming eviction hearings, based at least partly on logistical concerns about social distancing in the courtroom, which vary from place to place.

In Tennessee, some landlords have been pressuring local courts to start processing evictions again since the statewide moratorium lapsed at the beginning of June, says Zac Oswald, managing attorney at the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands. And while illegal evictions during the moratoriums have been fairly rare, many renters are lost when it comes to their rights, he says.

“I think the word I would use is confusion,” Oswald says. “Some renters think they’ve been protected by the executive order that President Trump issued. Some think something is going to be passed that’s retroactive. And other tenants just haven’t been informed the whole time, and are waiting until they get their court date to call us.”

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