Tenant Defense Program continues during eviction crisis
Eviction cases that were stayed during the pandemic are being heard in Rochester's Housing Court this week, but tenants facing eviction don't have to worry about navigating their cases alone.
Mark Muoio, the housing program director for Legal Aid Society, said tenants facing eviction will have continued access to free representation through the Tenant Defense Project program.
The program was birthed out of Rochester's Right to Counsel program in 2020, which provides free legal advice to city tenants facing eviction during the pandemic. Additional funding has expanded the service for tenants living in other parts of Monroe County.
Muoio said they have been providing legal assistance for 22 months and plan to continue it now that the eviction moratorium has ended.
"Anyone facing eviction, especially in the city of Rochester, but also going out into parts of (Monroe County), which we're developing now, will get an attorney,”
He added that they have staff stationed at Housing Court mornings and afternoons.
"We're ready to do intake on any person facing eviction," he said.
Tenants can only receive assistance when they show up in person for their court date.
"People should be coming to court so that they don't get a default, which is bad news,” Muoio said. "If you've been served with court paperwork, come to court."
There were about 5,600 evictions in Monroe County in 2020 and 2021 combined, compared to the 8,000 evictions filed in 2019.
Muoio said the rental assistance programs have helped withdraw some of the evictions during the pandemic, but the crisis continues.
Visit tenantdefense.org to learn more.