St. Petersburg, FL – Rents in Pinellas County are rising by 24%, which is one of the highest rental increase rates in the nation, according to CoStar, a real estate data firm. In response, Gulfcoast Legal Services (GLS) has joined a group of legal aid providers to spread awareness about tenant rights and resources. For tenants who are out of the service area or cannot utilize local legal aids, partner Jacksonville Area Legal Aid has created an online form-builder that helps tenants create their own eviction notice answers.
The Eviction Defense form-builder at FloridaEvictionHelp.org includes a guided interview process, which virtually walks tenants through the process of drafting their own legal responses to eviction complaints. It not only includes the most common defenses tenants can raise when facing eviction, but also any special defenses related to COVID-19, including the necessary CDC declaration. At the end of the guided process, tenants are provided with completed forms that can be filed with the court, along with instructions on how to do so.
“Eviction cases proceed very quickly. A response must be filed in court no later than five days after service of the lawsuit. JALA online form builder is a tool that ALL tenants can use to protect rights, assert defenses, and ensure that their response reaches the court within the time deadline. This provides access to the courts and increased access to justice for all tenants facing eviction,” said Robin Stover, Deputy Director of the GLS housing unit.
The form-builder and partnership are part of a larger, HUD funded initiative called the Florida Legal Aid Eviction Protection Project. The project provides education and outreach, Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) navigation, legal representation, and assistance sealing eviction records, among other things. For more information, check out the project page at: https://gulfcoastlegal.org/florida-legal-aid-fla-eviction-prevention-project
As a tenant, you are responsible for paying your rent on time. If, however, you have fallen behind on your rent payments, you still have rights. For more information, or to see if you are eligible for services, visit the GLS website at www.gulfcoastlegal.org.
The work that provided the basis for this information was supported by funding under an award with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The substance and findings of the work are dedicated to the public. The author and publisher are solely responsible for the accuracy of the statements and interpretations contained in this publication. Such interpretations do not necessarily reflect the views of the Government.