Legal aid services close record-high number of housing cases in Central Florida
The largest funder of civil legal aid in the country reported Tuesday that 40% of the cases the organization closed last year were housing-related.
Legal Services Corporation tweeted this is a record for any type of case.
“As in 2021, the largest categories of cases closed were housing and family issues. With eviction moratoriums ending, over 40% of cases closed were housing cases, the largest ever percentage for any case type,” LSC posted.
The numbers mirrored the data of a local legal aid organization.
Community Legal Services, a nonprofit of legal experts advocating for people who lack means for legal representation across 12 Central Florida counties, had similar numbers for 2022.
Director of Advocacy John Martino said CLS closed 3,300 housing-related cases in 2022, their highest on record.
“Since we’ve been keeping this data since 2010, we’ve never had more housing-specific cases referred to us or intake through our helpline than in 2022,” he said.
Martino said the high number of cases is likely due to several factors, including a confluence of the end of COVID-19 eviction moratoriums in 2021 and displacements caused either directly or indirectly by a series of devastating hurricanes.
“When the eviction moratorium ended, there was a build-up of landlords who wanted to evict their residents,” he said. “When it comes to disaster-related issues, it could be a number of issues there. You could have mobile homeowners, whose mobile homes were damaged significantly and were unable to pay their lot rents (...) Maybe some evicted as a result that they may be having issues with their insurance companies and whether or not they had the right type of insurance.”
An Orange County public records request showed, 2022 saw record-high eviction filings, more than it had seen in the last 10 years. A lot of times people can't afford to pay for legal representation and fight these cases.
Martino said that when it comes to tenant and homeowner protections, people who qualify can reach out to CLS for help.
“There are rules in place, and landlords cannot just evict people willy-nilly. They need to follow statutes, otherwise, that eviction can be fought,” Martino said. “I think a lot of people for some reason, no matter what efforts we make, are not aware of our work. And we want to make sure that people know we’re here for them.”
Lillian Hernández Caraballo is a Report for America corps member.