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Legal Aid reports cases of landlords using illegal tactics to remove tenants

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - With their rent profits being delayed each time the CDC extends its eviction moratorium; the Legal Aid Society tells News4 Investigates it is repeatedly being told of cases where landlords are using illegal tactics to get financially strapped renters out.

“We might get two to four calls a week from tenants who might have their utilities shut off by the landlords or the locks changed,” said Kerry Dietz, an attorney with the Legal Aid Society.

Dietz said landlords could face a criminal charge, especially if they interfere with utilities, but most likely would face civil charges in lawsuits brought by Legal Aid.

“Like trying to force, harass, intimidate a tenant to leave without going through the court process because they don’t want to wait,” said Dietz.

With the CDC extending its eviction moratorium until June for renters who have signed declarations that they have been financially impacted since the pandemic, landlords are seeing their rent payments get put off for even longer.

It’s why the city has created a first of its kind court called the Legacy Housing Resource Diversionary Court, which started meeting virtually in February.

With an estimated 1,800 cases of eviction orders backlogged since the pandemic began, the Legacy court is designed to bring together landlords and their tenants to see if federal or local dollars can be used to pay off back rent.

“Without this court, I don’t think the majority of these cases would be resolved,” said Judge Rachel Bell, who is overseeing the Legacy court.

Both Bell and Dietz encourage landlords and tenants to come to court to see if the monies could help settle their disputes.

“There may be a solution. Don’t stay home because you think you’re going to lose,” said Dietz.

To see if you could be helped by the Legacy court, click here.


Chief Investigative Reporter

Jeremy Finley is the chief investigator for News4 Investigates. His reporting has resulted in criminal convictions, legislative hearings before the U.S. Congress, and the payout of more than a million dollars to scam victims.

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