Eviction filings increase amid COVID-19 pandemic

Updated: Apr. 30, 2020 at 5:58 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Another round of rent is about to be due since the COVID-19 pandemic started. Calls to Memphis Area Legal Services have increased, as a halt on eviction hearings is extended.

There have been more than 65,000 unemployment claims in the Greater Memphis Area since the start of this pandemic. One month of rent has come and gone and now the second one is upon us.

“There’s an awful lot in limbo that we’re asking for guidance from the Tennessee Supreme Court,” Memphis Area Legal Services CEO Cindy Ettingoff said.

What’s included in that limbo are thousands of eviction filings.

The Tennessee Supreme Court extended an order that suspended in-person court appearances including eviction hearings until May 31. A part of that order says issues “…no judge, clerk or other court official shall take any action to effectuate an eviction..”

A landlord can still file an eviction, but it may be some time before it’s heard. There have been 7,000 filings at Shelby County General Sessions Court since the suspension. That’s according to Ettingoff. WMC has reached out to the General Sessions Clerk’s Office but we have not heard back.

“Now those aren’t all eviction filings by any means,” Ettingoff said. “They’re evictions and garnishments and attachments. The bottom line is there is a lot of activity that is piling up. “

Ettingoff said an eviction isn’t final until a judge makes a ruling. The Supreme Court order does not stop landlords from collecting rent.

“We’re not unsympathetic to [to landlords],” Ettingoff said.”It’s just there has to be some possibility to work out arrangements for people to staying in housing and pay. Maybe they’re not paying the full rent, or paying over an extended period of time.”

Ettingoff said the request for her organization’s legal services has gone up since the pandemic. It gets about 20 calls extra a day.

The request for financial assistance is going up too. The Shelby County Community Services Agency had to postpone processing applications for assistance because of the high volume it’s already received.

If you have a housing issue, you can call Memphis Area Legal Services at 901-432-HOME. For a local emergency assistance program, click here.

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