Arizona County Starts $2.6 Million In Legal Aid For Renters

PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona’s largest county has announced $2.6 million in free legal help for tenants who were unable to pay rent during the coronavirus pandemic.

Maricopa County said this week it will draw on its fiscal recovery fund to pay nonprofit Community Legal Services for 12 attorneys and six paralegals to help renters in the Phoenix metro area.

The state doesn’t have a similar legal fund for tenants trying to pay their back rent now that a federal moratorium protecting them from eviction has ended.

Pima County and Tucson last year set aside $2 million of their rental aid for their own legal programs.

The U.S. Supreme Court in late August blocked a new moratorium by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that would have continued to protect renters from eviction if they had withheld rent because they were affected by COVID-19

Court officials say they expect to see evictions rise in the coming weeks.

Less than 1% of all tenants in eviction cases in Maricopa County have had legal representation during the COVID-19 crisis compared with 90% of landlords who have had lawyers.