Tags: Coronavirus | evictions | coronaviruspandemic | legalaid

Courts Not Prepared for Coming Eviction Wave

people protesting to cancel rent and avoid evictions
Protesters block the entrance of the court house during a protest to cancel rent and avoid evictions amid Coronavirus pandemic on August 21, 2020, in Los Angeles, California.(ALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty Images)

By    |   Friday, 28 August 2020 09:54 AM

Eviction lawyers are raising concerns that courts will not be ready to handle the influx of eviction cases that will come as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Vox reports.

Diana Li, an eviction lawyer at the Legal Aid Society in New York City, told the outlet that the office is inundated with clients complaining of landlord harassment, ongoing maintenance neglect and questions about the current eviction moratorium. 

Eviction lawyers say they will only become busier when the moratorium on evictions expires. Li said the ban is currently scheduled to be lifted in NYC on Oct. 1. 

Li told Vox she began to notice the NYC courts were not prepared to handle the pandemic when business went virtual. She said the courts were “ill-equipped” to handle virtual proceedings. And even when they were up and running she said there were still many kinks in the system.

Eviction hearings are also supposed to take place quickly. She said the pressure the help a client who may be facing an eviction within days is stressful even during normal circumstances.

“We thought this quarantine might be a breather,” she said. “It’d be horrible to evict anyone during a pandemic.”

Before the coronavirus outbreak, she said most of her clients were referrals that happened in person in court. But with the courts closed, she said they set up a hotline for emergency referrals.

Her first emergency referral was a total disaster, she told Vox. There was a lapse in communication, the client showed up to the courthouse, which was closed, and the virtual hearing’s audio was so muffled that the judge ruled Li couldn’t retain the woman as a contact because they couldn’t figure out how to get a hold of her.

“It was incredibly chaotic,” Li recalled. 

She said the office has been receiving calls about people wanting to break leases and questions about what the moratorium on evictions actually means.

“There’s a lot of people who are aware that there’s a moratorium, but they might not know the details about it, so they’re very anxious,” she said. “Landlords can serve notices again, saying things like, ‘If you don’t pay this we’re suing you in court.’ And people have a lot of questions about the timeline with that.”

She said there are landlords who are “playing dirty tricks” to try to kick people out of their homes.

“There have been people who have been locked out,” she said. “In one very extraordinary case, and this one wasn’t mine, but a landlord had moved in with a tenant in order to harass them to get out.”

Li said it is hard to imagine the oncoming wave of evictions because the court already feels like an “eviction mill.”

She say eviction lawyers were already working overtime to get cases pushed through quickly before the pandemic.

“The pace we were going at before the pandemic was unsustainable,” she told Vox. “The idea that there’s going to be an unprecedented number of cases filed — on a practical basis, it’s hard to imagine that it will be that much more.”

According to Vox, anywhere between 30 and 40 million people across the country are at risk of losing their homes. 

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Eviction lawyers are raising concerns that courts will not be ready to handle the influx of eviction cases that will come as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Vox reports. Diana Li, an eviction lawyer at the Legal Aid Society in New York City, told the outlet that the...
evictions, coronaviruspandemic, legalaid
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2020-54-28
Friday, 28 August 2020 09:54 AM
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