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Legal service providers partner to educate tenants about their rights

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Gulfcoast Legal ServicesWith rents on the rise in Pinellas County, Gulfcoast Legal Services (GLS) has joined a group of legal aid providers to spread awareness about tenant rights and resources.

For tenants who are out of the service area or cannot utilize local legal aids, partner Jacksonville Area Legal Aid has created an online form-builder that helps tenants create their own eviction notice answers.

The Eviction Defense form-builder at FloridaEvictionHelp.org includes a guided interview process, which virtually walks tenants through the process of drafting their own legal responses to eviction complaints. It not only includes the most common defenses tenants can raise when facing eviction, but also any special defenses related to COVID-19, including the necessary CDC declaration, according to GLS. At the end of the guided process, tenants are provided with completed forms that can be filed with the court, along with instructions on how to do so.

“Eviction cases proceed very quickly. A response must be filed in court no later than five days after service of the lawsuit,” said Robin Stover, deputy director of the GLS housing unit. “JALA online form builder is a tool that all tenants can use to protect rights, assert defenses, and ensure that their response reaches the court within the time deadline. This provides access to the courts and increased access to justice for all tenants facing eviction.”

The form-builder and partnership are part of a larger, HUD-funded initiative called the Florida Legal Aid Eviction Protection Project. The project provides education and outreach, Emergency Rental Assistance Program navigation, legal representation, and assistance sealing eviction records, among other things. For more information, visit the project page.

For more information about GLS, visit www.gulfcoastlegal.org.

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