Eviction Settlement Program

Eviction Settlement Program (ESP)

The Eviction Settlement Program (ESP) is a partnership between the city of Memphis, Shelby County, Neighborhood Preservation Inc., the University of Memphis School of Law, and Memphis Area Legal Services.

Using CARES Act funds attorney volunteers negotiate rent arrearage settlements. There are currently just under 2,000 cases awaiting resolution through ESP.  In addition to the cases being negotiated by volunteer attorneys, cases PARTICULARLY CASES THAT ARE IN THE ESP NETWORK PRIOR TO THE FILING OF A LAWSUIT are also being mediated by volunteer mediators through CJAM (Mid-South Community Justice & Mediation Center, Inc.) Volunteer negotiators and mediators are desperately needed.  The number of cases being handled is currently limited by the number of volunteers available to assist.

The CARES Act Moratorium prevented the filing of evictions through June 27, but it also added a requirement that the landlord gives 30 days’ notice prior to proceeding on an eviction.  The practical effect was that no evictions could take place until after July 27. Data is processed weekly by Innovate Memphis and allows the partners to see trends in filings and evictions. There was a gradual uptick in eviction filings following July 27 until the CDC issued its emergency order. The CDC issued an order which became effective September 4 and extends through December 31, 2020.

The order prevents evictions through December 31, 2020.

The CDC order requires a tenant to provide a declaration under penalty of perjury to their landlord or anyone who has a right to have them evicted.

The declaration must state the following:

  • the individual has used their best efforts to obtain all available government assistance for rent/housing; and
  • the individual expects to earn no more than 99,000 in 2020 or 198,000 if couple; OR not required to file taxes in 2019; OR received CARES Act stimulus check; and
  • the individual is unable to pay full rent due to substantial loss of household income due to COVID 19, i.e., job loss or hours decrease, extraordinary out of pocket expenses, lay-off; and
  • the individual is using best efforts to make timely partial payments that are as close as possible to the full payment as the individual’s circumstances may permit (taking into account non-discretionary expenses); and
  • evictions would likely render the individual homeless or force them to live close quarters in congregated/shared living spaces (shelters).

NOT INCLUDED are: home mortgages, hotels, motels, guest houses rented to temporary or seasonal tenants;

Our sheriff has viewed that as meaning it cannot serve feds. (Not so with private process servers);

The order provides for penalties to be recovered from landlords who violated the order with an increase in those penalties if death results.

The Eviction Settlement Program (ESP) is accessed through home901.org or dialing #211. From EPS, MALS paralegal sends the cases to both attorney and mediator volunteers. There is also an additional source of funding for residents of District 6.  Commissioner Willie Brooks designated $50,000 of his discretionary funds to prevent eviction for tenants in those areas.  Those individuals are routed to MALS both through ESP and by calling MALS directly at 901-432-4663.