LEGACY Court Helps Davidson Co. Residents Pay Rent

Nashville, TN (TN Tribune)–Congress extended the eviction moratorium to July this past week, but groups in Davidson County say they have resources available now to keep rent from being a problem in the future.

Judge Rachel Bell is the presiding judge and founder of LEGACY court in Davidson County. The first of its kind court is a mediation of sorts where tenants and landlords can agree to get help to pay any past due rent.

The pandemic stalled their efforts early last year, but a new partnership with the Metro Action Commission (MAC) has proved to be the right fit. MAC has staff on standby at the Justice A.A. Birch building for recommendations from Bell.

“I always say meeting people where they are is always the best thing,” Bell said.

The Housing Opportunity Partnership and Employment (HOPE) was made possible after Mayor John Cooper applied for and received $20.8 million for MAC to cover past due rent and utilities.

Lisa McCrady of MAC says this new funding expands their previous rent assistance to make it far more inclusive than ever before.

“This program is broad and wide so that we can capture as many families or individuals as we can,” McCrady said.

To make sure the program prioritized those most in need, the agency implemented a three-phase approach. Phase 1 began in March where residents who faced evictions in the city’s General Sessions Court were offered assistance. Phase 2 helped residents who already applied for rental assistance at MAC, but were on hold for more money to be made available. Phase 3 now includes all applicants throughout Davidson County.

Both McCrady and Bell say this isn’t about just the tenants. They know landlords benefit from tenants paying their past due rent. McCrady says they encourage landlords to send the HOPE application to tenants they believe would qualify.

To be eligible:

One notable requirement that no longer exists is the need for a social security number. McCrady says this ensures we can help even the undocumented tenants who often find themselves without options. She says many have been too worried about their status to claim benefits, making this a potential game-changer.

The HOPE program expects to last until at least December or until funding runs out.