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A “tidal wave” of an issue | New cash for lease help helps comprise tense housing state of affairs in East Tennessee

Legal Aid of East TN helps connect people with aid. Lawyers say it eases tension between landlords and tenants. Here is how they can help you.

KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. – During the pandemic, millions of people in the US were late on rent or utility bills, straining tenant-landlord relationships.

New federal funds, some of which are provided by the American rescue plan that came into force in March, as well as expanded evacuation protection, help tenants and owners to experience a little less stress. For some people, it comes just in time.

“It’s barely in there right now,” said Holly Fuller of East Tennessee’s Legal Aid, a nonprofit law firm that helps low-income clients. “We have had the feeling for some time that this time of year is likely to be very difficult.”

The American rescue plan denotes approximately $ 40 billion for total housing allowance. More than $ 20 billion of this will go to state and local governments to meet rental and utility costs owed for low-income households.

The city of Knoxville and Knox County announced the new one Knox Housing Assistance Program that does exactly that.

CONNECTED: Knoxville officials announce the Knox Housing Assistance program

Both the renter and landlord must file an application for funding, but officials say the money can be used to pay rent or utilities up to 12 months overdue, and in some cases even future rent payments.

If you do not live in Knox County, there is a similar application process on the state housing website. Legal Aid of East Tennessee said if this money is approved it will go straight to the landlord.

If you do not have access to a computer or if you have a language barrier, you can call (844) 500-1112.

With this new aid and a year into the pandemic, Fuller said the number of people coming to aid at Legal Aid in East Tennessee has increased, especially because tenants know that eviction protection will expire in late June.

Currently, in addition to in-house attorneys, the organization is using grants to hire private attorneys to help with case loading.

“Tensions may have eased a little. Resources have started flowing, which gives some people a little breath. However, if nothing changes by the end of this month, the term we have used in our organization from the start will be a tidal wave. Said Fuller.

Fuller said the goal is to help clients come to an agreement that will benefit both the renter and the landlord – whether it be to get financial assistance or to work out an agreement to keep an eviction out of the renter’s records. In addition, she said her lawyers will guide people through the process if their landlord has already started the eviction process in court.

“Landlords are also in a tough spot and need some relief too. That is why it is so important to use the resources so we can solve the problem at both ends to try to accommodate our vulnerable people,” she said.

Legal Aid of East Tennessee can also help people move into safer, different living conditions or connect them to other community resources.

Fuller said her biggest advice was not to wait to get help.

“Call us as soon as you get a notice that something is going to happen,” she said. “It is so traumatic to think that you may be homeless. One stress response is to simply ignore it. Do not do that. We can help your stress, we can talk you through. “

Fuller said she has seen cases of tenants losing their homes because they didn’t apply for help on time or didn’t know how to get the money. She also said that in some cases, tenants are being represented late.

“Call us, call us quickly. We are here, we are here for you. The sooner we can start our relationship, the better, ”said Fuller.

To get in touch with Legal Aid from East Tennessee, you can call one of the offices at the end of their website.

Different scholarships allow them to serve people who fall into different categories.

In Knoxville, they are located at 607 West Summit Hill Drive SW or by calling (865) 637-0484.

Read more articles in our “Pay or Vacation: The Rent Crisis” series: