Tenants have rights even if they can’t pay rent during the pandemic

Posted at 4:37 PM, Apr 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-30 20:01:01-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Tenants have rights even if they’re unable to pay rent due to economic issues caused by the pandemic.

Renters should still pay rent if they’re able, but if they’ve lost their job, they can’t be evicted right now. That’s a process that has to go through the courts, and the courts are closed temporarily due to COVID-19.

“The landlord can’t take their own steps to force tenants out,” Attorney Zac Oswald said.

Oswald is with the Legal Aid Society in Middle Tennessee, which takes on cases for people who can’t afford to pay an attorney. He said they’re fielding lots of calls from renters who’ve been told to get out since they can’t pay.

“The Supreme Court has said that there should be no non-payment of rent evictions until at least June 1st,” Oswald said.

It’s also against the law for landlords to lock tenants out for not paying.

“If somebody were to say the key fob on my rental unit was turned off for nonpayment of rent, I would point them back to the law and point the landlord back to the law that says that you can’t use self eviction measures, you can’t lock somebody out of their unit, you can’t shut off their utilities to force them out, you do have to file the detainee warrant to start the court process,” Oswald said.

If you need legal help because of COVID-19, the Legal Aid Society is here to help. They are providing free advice for folks who can’t afford to hire an attorney. You can contact them here.