Nashville evictions double in October; Metro program gives tenants free access to lawyers

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – There’s been an uptick in people getting kicked out of their homes in Nashville in recent months, according to data provided by the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office.

There were 308 evictions in October, according to the department, compared to 145 in October of 2021. In September, there were 226 evictions compared to 176 during the same month last year. And there were 50 more evictions this August than last.

However, it’s rare for tenants to have legal representation when going to court, according to a study presented to Metro Council by Vanderbilt University Action Research.

The study found between 2016 and 2021, 99.8% of Davidson County plaintiffs, often landlords, had an attorney, while less than 1% of defendants were represented by an attorney.

In an effort to help tenants in Nashville, Metro Council approved a two-year pilot program to give funding to Legal Aid of Middle Tennessee to offer legal help to people who have been evicted or are at risk of eviction.

“Having a lawyer in court for a tenant means everything,” Legal Aid Senior Deputy Director Zac Oswald said. “A lot of times, tenants are trying to represent themselves they don’t know the rules for civil procedure. They don’t know the law that happens in these courts.”

According to Oswald, the rate of evictions is starting to go back to pre-pandemic levels because rental assistance and COVID assistance have either been used or are more difficult to get.

He also said people who would be buying homes are more likely to rent at the moment, which is increasing demand and rent prices and making it hard.

According to Clever Real Estate Company, rent prices in Nashville are up nearly 256% from 2000 to 2022.

One of the people Oswald’s team recently assisted, Arthur, saw the rent in the apartment he stayed in with his Mom double from $500 to $1000 over the past few years. When Arthur’s Mom passed away a few months ago, he was facing eviction and a nearly $2000 bill, which he couldn’t afford to pay.

“How do you pull yourself from that? How do you pull yourself from trying your best? When you’re the only one. The only one,” Arthur asked.

Legal Aid was able to help Arthur get out of paying that expense and also helped give him enough time to find a new place, so he didn’t need to spend a night on the streets.

“I’m actually happy, I’m actually happy,” Arthur said. “I have a job I appreciate. At that time I didn’t have a job. I didn’t know where I was going. I said I’m going to be homeless sleeping outside. And I’ve been there before but don’t want to return to being homeless.”

Arthur said even if he was able to stay in his old apartment, he would need to consider rationing food to pay the $1000 rent.

“But I would rather pay rent than be homeless,” he said.

Oswald hopes to be able to help other people like Arthur in the future. So far, with the help of funds from Metro Council, Legal Aid has been able to go from having one lawyer available to help tenants for free, to five.

Published by WKRN November 14, 2022.