A day after the expiration of a statewide moratorium on eviction cases, immigrant advocates and the Civil Legal Assistance Clinic at UNC School of Law announced a new eviction defense hotline for Spanish-speaking tenants, the CARES Act Eviction Information Line.
The recent Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) protects an estimated 30% of all rental units nationwide from eviction until at least July 25, 2020. However, the vast majority of tenants do not know if their dwelling qualifies, and also do not know how to provide or demand that information in a court hearing.
The hotline, operated by UNC’s Civil Legal Assistance Clinic and immigration advocacy organization Siembra NC, will help Spanish-speaking tenants identify whether their dwellings are covered under the CARES Act, and will present them with information to help them advocate for themselves in eviction hearings.
“This service will give Latinx tenants access to information that could help them avoid eviction if their landlord takes them to court,” said Andrew Willis Garcés, director of Siembra NC. “We know Latinxs are less likely to have access to attorneys or even to be able to read a court summons posted on their door, and we’re grateful to the UNC Civil Legal Assistance Clinic for their help in making sure tenants know their rights.”
As of June 16, Latinx North Carolinians make up 42% of all coronavirus cases in the state, and the vast majority of Latinx workers who get sick do not have access to paid time off or federal stimulus funds. A survey conducted by Siembra NC in May showed nearly half of all Spanish-speaking tenants were unable to pay their full rent in May, and Siembra staff have been sent dozens of photos of letters from landlords to Latinx tenants demanding full payment and threatening eviction.
Eviction creates negative collateral consequences for individuals and communities. Particularly during the pandemic, eviction is a major public health problem. Congress decided to prevent evictions temporarily from properties with federal subsidies, tax credits, or federally-backed mortgages. But landlords benefit from an information advantage as to whether the law applies.
“We are grateful for Chief Justice Beasley’s recent order, which requires landlords to state affirmatively whether or not their properties are covered. But we believe tenants should also get an opportunity to test the landlords’ claims and access the underlying documents,” said Kathryn Sabbeth, associate professor of law and director of the Civil Legal Assistance Clinic.“As it is, tenants are significantly disadvantaged because the supply of tenants’ lawyers has not kept up with the numbers of tenants facing eviction. With this hotline, we hope to make a small dent in equalizing the playing field.”
Individuals seeking assistance from the CARES Act Eviction Information Line should send a text message with their full address, and property name if known, to the hotline: (919) 590-9165. Tenants will then receive an information packet via both text message and US Mail based on the research results for their property.
Information provided by hotline operators will include:
- short infographics designed for social media and WhatsApp groups
- a guide to CARES Act protections
- the actual language of the CARES Act eviction moratorium
- a guide to self-representation in an eviction proceeding
- a guide to requesting an interpreter in court
- documents tenants can bring to court and can use to show judges how the law applies
- Kathryn Sabbeth, Associate Professor of Law, Civil Legal Assistance Clinic Director, UNC School of Law Clinical Programs, 919-962-2888, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Andrew Willis Garcés, Director, Siembra NC, 202-277-5262, email@example.com
Siembra NC is an organization of Latinx people defending our communities, building power “with and without papers” and organizing #ReliefForAll across central North Carolina.
The UNC Civil Legal Assistance Clinic is one of 10 clinics in the Clinical Programs at UNC School of Law at Chapel Hill. The Civil Legal Assistance Clinic represents individual clients and collaborates with community groups on tenants’ rights, workers’ rights, and other areas of racial, economic, and gender justice.