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Legal Aid Society seeks to educate renters

Jacob Smith • Mar 26, 2018 at 7:55 PM

When a local young, single mother of two received a detainer order from the Lebanon Housing Authority to evict her, she contacted Kerry Dietz, an attorney with Legal Aid Society in Gallatin.

Legal Aid Society is a nonprofit law firm that defends legal rights of low-income and vulnerable families. Dietz specializes in housing cases.

“I’m the person people call when something’s going on with their landlord,” said Dietz.

Dietz realized the lease termination was inadequate as it failed to allow the young woman sufficient time to vacate, failed to provide any details as to the grounds for eviction and failed to notify the woman of her right to a grievance hearing.

“After meeting with her and looking into it, looking at the papers that she had and the letter she got from her landlord before she got the court papers, we realized that the landlord wasn’t following all of the steps that a landlord has to in order to be able to evict someone,” said Dietz.

According to Dietz, it’s is a common problem some landlords get away with because their tenants aren’t aware of the legal process required to evict someone.

“Your landlord can say, ‘I’m going to evict you. You have to be out by this day,’ but that doesn’t necessarily mean somebody’s going to come and move you out,” said Dietz. “Your landlord can’t do that. They have to go through the court process.”

Dietz said to legally evict a tenant, a landlord has to file the case in court, get a court date and then win in court.

“After the landlord wins, even, they have to wait. It takes 10 days for a judgment to become final out of general sessions court, and then after those 10 days, that’s when the landlord can come back and get what’s called a writ of possession, and that’s just a paper that says they are legally entitled to regain possession of the property,” said Dietz. “Once they get that writ of possession, then they can come back and tell you that you need to leave. If you still don’t leave at that point, then the sheriff’s department will send somebody over to move for you, but that’s really the only time that you have to leave.”

If a resident has any questions about getting an eviction notice, Dietz’s main piece of advice is to contact Legal Aid Society to find out if their landlord is following eviction law.

“I would say anybody who is in a situation where they like their housing, they want to stay there and they don’t understand what their landlord is doing or whether their landlord has a basis for what they’re doing, they should feel free to give us a call,” said Dietz. “Sometimes there’s nothing we can do, but a lot of times, there is something we can do.”

For people who need help but don’t qualify for Legal Aid, Dietz said there are free legal clinics with volunteer local attorneys, where people who don’t have the need to meet the usual income requirements can come and get help.

“Right now, my office is working on launching a clinic in Wilson County, but in the meantime, folks are welcome to come to our clinic in Gallatin,” said Dietz. “[It meets from] 4:30-6:30 p.m. on the second Tuesday of each month at the Gallatin Civic Center. There are also several clinics in Davdison County if that’s easier for people to get to.”

For more information about Legal Aid Society, the free clinics or for free legal help booklets, visit las.org.

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