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How Shelby County renters facing eviction can get free legal support

Shelby County will continue rental support with free eviction counseling or in-court representation.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — After Wednesday, August 31, the Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) program will no longer accept applications.  For the last two years, ERA assistance has helped save thousands of families from homelessness. 

RELATED: The final round of rental and utility assistance for Shelby County residents closes on August 31

To continue helping Shelby County households, a new program providing free legal support is available for any Shelby County tenant facing court eviction.

The Memphis and Shelby County ERA legal team will provide renters with free eviction counseling or in-court representation.

While the support aims to help as many families as possible, the Memphis and Shelby County ERA legal team said not everyone who applies will get help because of high demand. 

The support is even extended to people who live in lease-to-own homes or extended stays.

Applicants only have to provide a copy of their lease and a court eviction notice. Income, proof of citizenship, and social security are not required. 

If you are behind on rent and need legal services, fill out the application here. This application is separate from the ERA payment program.

The ERA rental and utilities payment assistance program will close at 11:59 p.m. Wednesday. 

Qualifying applicants can get up to 14 months of utility or rent payments dated back to March 2022. The ERA program was the most extensive assistance program for people behind on rent that Shelby County has ever seen.

Throughout the course of the program, it has taken the county weeks and in some cases months to send out funding for approved applicants, but Deputy Director for Shelby County, Cherry Whitehead-Thompson, said everyone who gets approved for the assistance will get help by the end of the year.   

To be eligible, you have to show proof of income, a copy of the rental lease agreement, a current MLGW bill, and proof of a COVID-19 hardship.

Whitehead-Thompson said it's important renters remember landlords do have the right to decline the program's help and move forward with the eviction, even if you're approved. If that happens, Whitehead-Thompson said the program can use the money to help go towards new housing. 

If someone applied for the program before, they can apply again because the program will pay up to 14 months of back rent and utilities. For example, if someone applied in January, but they were only behind on rent for four months, the program can help you pay your back rent again for up to 10 months.

Click here to apply online and view the full list of requirements.

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