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Legal-Aid Groups: Know Your Rights When Facing Eviction

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Thursday, May 20, 2021   

ST. LOUIS -- With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) eviction moratorium on shaky legal ground and set to expire at the end of June, legal advocates in Missouri want tenants to know their rights when facing an eviction.

More than 90% of tenants in eviction courts go unrepresented, while 90-percent of landlords have representation.

Jacki Langum, director of advocacy for ArchCity Defenders, pointed to a new guide her group put together to help those without legal knowledge and experience with courts navigate the process.

"Evictions are starting again, and there's just so much misinformation," Langum asserted. "We really need community leaders to prioritize making decisions quickly, getting accurate information to tenants and landlords. The inconsistent information breeds distrust."

Earlier this month, a federal judge struck down the CDC moratorium on evictions, although a stay was put in place.

Langum noted without representation, the majority of tenants lose their cases and need to vacate their homes. She added ultimately, the goal is to have a universal right to counsel, but until then she hopes the guide can help folks defend themselves.

Evictions can impact people's credit, resources and ability to find future housing, as well as mental health, and Langum emphasized when members of a community are evicted, it can have long-term impacts on the community itself.

"So I'm hopeful that not only will this guide help tenants, but it will enable the community to see what the eviction processes looks like and just how scary that can be for so many people," Langum remarked.

Researchers found across 44 states that instituted eviction moratoriums, when some lifted them partway through 2020, it resulted in an estimated 430,000 excess cases of the coronavirus, and roughly 10,000 excess deaths nationally.

Evictions often increase household crowding, and decrease people's ability to comply with social distancing. While Missouri is opening back up, roughly 60% of residents remain unvaccinated.


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