Louisville Magazine

JUL 2018

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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68 LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 7.18 the proper 30-days notice about hiking up his rent. Fleming says it rose to $900. He felt wronged and didn't pay January's rent. "It's Portland," he'd explain later. "And there were several substantial issues, maintenance issues that were never dealt with." Having lived in the place for seven years, Fleming's record shows six other evictions filed (prior to today's) since 2012, though he was never set-out. Fleming was late a lot with his rent, especially, he says, when going through a custody battle for his oldest son a few years ago and right after college, before he secured work as a teacher and coach with Jefferson County Public Schools. His landlord filed for each eviction, and a sheriff's deputy came and taped what's called a "forcible detainer" to his door — mailed him a copy too. With roughly 17,300 forcible detainers filed last year, one deputy might post up to 70 in one day, nicknaming them "lick-em-and-stick-ems." Forcibles give tenants an eviction court date and list how much they owe their landlord or whatever reason they're being evicted. Fleming paid the landlord before having to go to court, so he never got kicked out. He thought all was said and done. But the fact that a landlord sued him at all has scarred his rental record. Same holds true for those who work something out with the landlord after they've had their court date. Deputies may not get tapped for a set-out, but that eviction pops up when landlords perform tenant screenings. If an agreement has been reached, landlords can file paperwork with the court that erases an eviction from a renter's record, known as a "set-aside." A majority do not. Some landlords who find themselves in eviction court frequently think: e tenant was late on their rent. ey'll probably be late again. Why bother? In Fleming's case, the property has changed management a couple times. He tried to contact the property owner to request a set-aside on his evictions. He says he wound up on the phone with a man in Sacramento, California, who said he had "owned property in Kentucky" but sold it and didn't know how Fleming could contact the property management groups who initiated the evictions. Judge Williams calls Fleming's name. Holding a red knit cap in his hand, he walks to the podium. "is says rent in January isn't paid," Williams says. Fleming shares his plight: the rent spike, his rental record. "How am I supposed to find a place to stay?" he asks. "I don't know," Williams says. "But we are here because of January's rent. I'm going to grant judgment." Fleming has seven days to find a new place before the warrant of possession is filed. In the hallway, he catches a lawyer. "Do you know how I can get these evictions off my record?" he asks. "I work for Mirage, so I cannot give you legal advice," the attorney says before returning to the courtroom to finish out the day's docket. Landlords sue tenants over money — to cover mortgage payments, maintenance. Maybe rental property is how they make their living. An eviction costs a landlord a little more than $85, plus legal fees if they hire a lawyer. "Oftentimes what you don't see (in eviction court) is that the landlord has worked with these (renters) a long time," judge McLaughlin says. She says most landlords are good people. Sometimes they're lenient, routinely accepting late payments, a practice McLaughlin advises against. "I tell them, 'Make sure you collect that rent on the first of the month,'" she says. "at money will go somewhere if you don't get it, and then they cannot get caught up. So you're actually hurting people by not getting rent money on the first of the month." Eviction has received heightened attention in the last several months, largely due to the Eviction Lab at Princeton University. Having compiled 83 million records from across the country, dating to 2000, the Eviction Lab created the first nationwide eviction database. (Matthew Desmond, a sociologist whose 2016 Pulitzer Prize-winning book Evicted chronicled the lives of poor renters in Milwaukee, leads the Eviction Lab.) According to Eviction Lab data released in April, North Charleston, South Carolina, has a 16.5 percent eviction rate, the highest of any city with a population greater than 100,000. Louisville ranks 42nd. ese rankings, of course, only capture formal evictions. Nobody can track renters who flee due to misunderstanding the eviction process or threats from a landlord. Some landlords gripe about the eviction timeline. It can take 45 days to two months or longer to evict someone — from the time a tenant first receives a formal letter warning that rent is past due or that they have violated thier lease to the day a sheriff comes knocking on the door. Occasionally landlords go around the system. Last year, for example, a landlord was caught posting fake eviction notices with the sheriff's logo on it. He was charged with forgery. Absorb eviction court from the pews, and the process tilts largely in favor of the landlord. One morning, an 82-year-old woman shuffles to the podium with her son. She wants to stay in her apartment but her lease has expired. e property owners want her out, presumably to renovate, so they gave her proper notice and stopped taking her rent. "Why don't you just accept her rent and I'll help her find another place," the woman's son asks. "No," the lawyer responds. On another day this spring, a woman dressed in the kind of playful, patterned scrubs you might see at a doctor's office or nursing home is being charged with a $275 fee for each month she was late on rent, deepening her financial hole. Judges can and do sometimes forbid steep late fees, but in this case the judge, tenant and landlord's attorney have devised an agreement: Pay the landlord $3,000 for the two months of late rent and a host of fees (her rent is $1,300) and the landlord will scrap the eviction. is is a Wednesday. She has until Friday. Assistance exists if you know where to look for it. Once a calendar year, Neighborhood Place centers will help a renter in need. Applicants must live at 150 percent below the poverty level (about $36,500 for a family of four) and meet a list of requirements. In 2017, Neighborhood Place served nearly 2,100 individuals, about double that of previous years due to a larger budget. Several community ministries offer between $100 to $300 for rental assistance, hardly enough to cover a full month's rent, and the money tends to run out fast. Since 1996, Volunteers of America has helped public-housing tenants facing eviction, last year keeping 250 adults and "Before I came to Legal Aid I would've never imagined that it is a regular thing for sewage to come up through bathtubs, but I hear it all the time," says Stewart Pope, Legal Aid's advocacy director. "I couldn't tell you how many times ceilings have fallen and injured people."

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