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August 25, 2021

Eviction Moratorium Blocked

Prevention and Diversion Programs Critical

It is critically important that we work now to make eviction diversion programs available to tenants in crisis.

It is critically important that we work now to make eviction diversion programs available to tenants in crisis.

Last Thursday, the Supreme Court struck down the latest moratorium on housing evictions imposed by the Centers for Disease Control in the wake of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.  A surge in evictions is now imminent, making it critically important that we work to make eviction diversion programs more easily available to tenants in crisis.

Earlier this year, the ABA Task Force on Legal Needs Arising from the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic partnered with the Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program to conduct a month-long study to survey eviction prevention and diversion programs nationwide to assess their effectiveness, determine which programs are available to tenants at which stage in eviction proceedings, and to identify best practice models. The results of the study’s findings and recommendations are now available in a report titled Designing for Housing Stability: Best Practices for Court-Based and Court-Adjacent Eviction Prevention and/or Diversion Programs.

With the real risk that billions of federal relief dollars will go unclaimed by tenants facing eviction, some of the report’s key findings stand out. For example, the research showed widespread buy-in for eviction diversion efforts, with more than 70% of the landlords inclined to address issues of tenant nonpayment outside of court, and 81% of property owners surveyed reported being less likely to pursue eviction if their tenant had access to rental or cash assistance. These findings underscore how vitally important it is for states and municipalities to effectively distribute rental assistance funds to those in need to avoid widespread displacement and homelessness.

The study further determined that some of the best diversion programs—where local legal systems require landlords and tenants to seek mediation—incorporated full or limited legal representation; a legal hotline or help desk; tenant rights and/or education programs; rental or cash assistance; and pre- or post-filing mediation services to parties. Involvement of attorneys with diversion programs is indispensable to ensuring their effectiveness and the ability of tenants to negotiate on equal footing with landlords when facing eviction.

Drawing on the findings of the study, the ABA is now focused on engaging the legal community to help tenants facing eviction by providing them with representation, tools, and other resources, including ABA Free Legal Answers. The ABA is also sharing information from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to help landlords and tenants connect with resources available at the state and local levels to help avoid potential homelessness or eviction proceedings.

For more information about the ABA’s eviction diversion work, contact [email protected], Counsel to the Task Force Eviction, Housing Stability, and Equity.  To learn about legislative developments as they happen, follow us on twitter @ABAGrassroots.