Renters impacted by COVID-19 can apply for eviction settlement program

Published: Jul. 3, 2020 at 6:43 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Eviction hearings resumed in Memphis two weeks ago and hundreds of renters are waiting for word on a program that could keep them in their homes.

Memphis Area Legal Services (MALS) helps renters with eviction cases and since hearings resumed they have been receiving a high amount of call from renters asking for help.

“We have a high number of cases filled, I anticipate seeing even more for two reasons, one is because courts are reopening and we’re back in full swing,” said Cindy Ettingoff, CEO for Memphis Area Legal Services.

Ettingoff says MALS is waiting for the city to approve the eviction settlement program so her office can help renters find a solution.

The eviction settlement program launched 10 days ago, Ettingoff says 800 people have already signed up.

“The tenant has to have the participation of the landlord, the landlord will provide the amount of arrearage. We are asking that the landlord drop any late fees in part of that and then ultimately it will be a negotiation,” said Ettingoff.

The program is a collaboration between the city, county and other local organization like MALS. Ettingoff says the county has already approved it and they are waiting on the city.

“The city is supportive it just hasn’t been voted on,” said Ettingoff.

Ettingoff notes $2 million is being allocated for the program, but believes it’s not enough to help all Memphians that are facing eviction due to COVID-19.

When hearings resumed June 15 we talked with Judge Betty Moore who said landlords and tenants are working together.

“We want the cases to be worked out amongst each other because that way people aren’t being evicted,” said Moore.

Ettingoff admits this has been happening, “So that clearly has happened with some of the older cases.”

However, she also says this week’s docket included renters impacted by COVID-19 and some of them may be eligible for the eviction settlement program.

We reached out to the city asking when they plan to vote on the program but have not heard back.

Renters can still apply for the eviction settlement program, Ettingoff says not everyone is eligible.

“People who lost their jobs or were unable to work due to COVID-19, so lost a job, were furloughed, were sick, had to care for someone who was ill due to [COVID-19], had a child that their child care closed due to [COVID-19] and so they could not find a replacement and they needed to be able to take care of their child, those individuals would be eligible,” said Ettingoff.

To learn more about the program click here, you can also call 211.

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