Legal help for those facing eviction almost impossible to find

MIAMI – Availability is low, rents are anything but and thousands of people are facing eviction. 

At Legal Services of Greater Miami, eviction defense attorneys are maxed out with cases and can’t take on new clients despite unprecedented demand.

“Our office is seeing about 80 clients a week contacting us with some sort of problem-related to their housing including evictions,” says Jeffrey Hearne.

One of Hearne’s clients, Darnell Rhodes was facing an eviction battle alone and almost lost everything.

He says, “I just assumed I had a hearing and I’d be fine. The judge just totally disregarded everything,” says Rhodes.

Before COVID19 hit, Rhodes, otherwise known as DJ Willie Dynamite, was working on his DJ career.

“Hotel got shut down, everybody got let go.  It got to the point where it was hard to pay the rent,” says Darnell Rhodes of North Bay Village.

“I couldn’t sleep.  And on top of that I wasn’t working.  I couldn’t find a job.” 

He’s one of thousands facing eviction in South Florida. Without the guidance from an attorney, he says he’d be without a home.  

As our CBS4’s Ashley Dyer found out, access to legal help with evictions is almost impossible to come by right now.

Attorneys we spoke with say navigating the eviction process without an attorney is nearly impossible. They tell me about 90% of the time landlords have lawyers and only 2% of the time tenants have legal help.

“For every open housing unit there are 31 applications in Miami-Dade County,” says Jeffrey Hearne, Chief Advocacy Officer of Legal Services of Greater Miami.

Darnell started getting help from the county’s rental assistance program but when his check got delayed an eviction was served.

“Nobody should be evicted just because the money hasn’t gotten from one place to the other,” says Hearne.

Through the stress, music kept Darnell’s spirits alive and last night, his eviction case was dismissed.  Now, with a clear mind and a roof over his head, he’s focusing on doing what he loves again.

“It makes my blood pump. ‘Till the day I die, that’s what I’m going to do.”

Mayor Daniella Levine Cava is working with County Commissioners to make lawyers available to tenants who need the help.  

If you’re facing the eviction battle alone right now, Hearne shares this advice, “An eviction is a lawsuit.  When that happens, the tenant has 5 days to defend the eviction.” 

“They also must deposit their money into the court -any past due rent.  If they dispute the rent, they must explain to the judge why they disagree with the amount of rent the landlord is claiming.  If you don’t do these three things the landlord is entitled to win automatically.”

Click here to see the proposed 2023 budget for Miami-Dade County.

The housing crisis is leaving many desperate for help. That’s why CBS News Miami wants to share your stories to show the crisis you’re in or how you navigated the system. We will highlight these issues and work to get answers and solutions. Send us an email at [email protected]