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Jax Daily Record Monday, Aug. 10, 202011:30 AM EST

Online legal aid available for renters affected by COVID-19 

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Jacksonville Area Legal Aid is offering a way to help protect tenants from final action on eviction filings.
by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

Floridians facing eviction have access to a new online tool to create a legal response based on the state’s limited extension of a moratorium on evictions for nonpayment directly related to COVID-19.

The tool at FloridaEvictionHelp.org was created by Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, assisted by a grant from the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, to enable Floridians who are eligible for a delay to avoid being evicted because of an inadequate answer to the eviction filing.

The $74,000 grant is being used to build and modify the tool as new statewide orders affecting eviction are issued, as well as for other COVID-19-related legal work JALA is doing.

Global advisory firm Stout estimates that Florida could have about 749,000 eviction filings over the next four months, with 44.61% of renter households unable to pay rent and at risk of eviction.

“Knowing there are 749,000 Floridians at risk of eviction and that we don’t have lawyers for 749,000 Floridians, and knowing the Florida Courts DIY system structure does not contain a tenant answer at all, we began working back in March to make sure this tool would be available when the initial full moratorium ended,” said JALA President and CEO Jim Kowalski in a news release.

Under the most recent eviction moratorium extension order issued July 29 by Gov. Ron DeSantis, landlords can file evictions, but “final action” on the lawsuit is suspended until Sept. 1 if, and only if, tenants can show a link to COVID-19.

“Until Sept. 1, tenants have to file a response within five days and demonstrate the inability to pay is due to COVID-19,” Kowalski said.

“After Sept. 1, they still must respond within five days, but they won’t have the defense provided by the governor’s order unless that portion of the order is continued.”

The mission of Jacksonville Area Legal Aid is to obtain and provide civil legal assistance to low-income and other special-need groups and to stimulate and empower groups of poor people to have free access to affirmative advocacy to alleviate the circumstances, incidence and causes of poverty.


 

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