Not a Scam: The Early Eviction Notification System Goes Live in New Orleans

Members of the New Orleans Renter’s Rights assembly protest the opening of eviction courts in Louisiana. Photo by Jennsen Bentley

Last week, the New Orleans City Council voted unanimously to approve an ordinance that provides a lawyer to all tenants facing eviction or housing subsidy. As a result, some tenants have already begun receiving notifications through The Early Eviction Notification System (TEENS).

TEENS notifications are sent via text message, email, or postcard notifying tenants when their landlord files an eviction with the court. In some cases, these notifications may even reach tenants before their landlord notifies them of the filing. The message urges residents to contact Southeast Louisiana Legal Services – the New Orleans region legal aid office. This is intended to give tenants extra time to prepare and protect themselves.

“The Early Eviction Notification System (T.E.E.N.S.) is designed to prevent you from being displaced plus to let you know about your rights – so don’t be afraid if you receive a message,” said the Jane Place Neighborhood Sustainability Initiative (JPNSI) last week on Twitter, after the system went live. “Most importantly, ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS go to court and contact SLLS. Your eviction could be tossed out, delayed, and at the very minimum, kept from being placed on your credit report.”

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, JPNSI’s eviction court monitoring program discovered that 82.2 percent of tenants facing eviction in New Orleans are Black, with 56.8 percent of all tenants facing eviction being black women. Worse, only six percent of tenants had access to legal representation during the eviction process. That’s an important figure, given that over 65 percent of tenants with no legal representation were evicted compared to 14.6 percent of tenants with legal representation.

The Right to Counsel ordinate creates a permanent framework for a program begun by the City Council last year, as well as setting up basic rules for eligibility for the program.

“Most importantly though, the ordinance lets families know that the City won’t pull the rug out from under them after only one year,” said Cashauna Hill, Executive Director of the Louisiana Fair Housing Action Center. “Everyone deserves access to an attorney before potentially being forced from their home, so we’re proud to see the City doing the right thing for our majority-renter residents.”

The need for this program couldn’t be more clear. According to the JPNSI’s court monitoring program, eviction filings for 2022 are up 12 percent over 2019 (the last full pre-pandemic year). Most evictions are filed over only one month of late or missed rent – and many renters are not aware of the fact that a landlord’s failure to complete needed repairs is not a legal defense to nonpayment in Louisiana.

For more information on your rights as a renter if you are facing eviction, please click here.

If you have received notification through the TEENS system, you can reach out to SLLS through their legal aid hotline: 1-844-244-7871

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