Posted June 28, 20201:26 pm
ELYRIA — Several legal issues have increased since the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly evictions and domestic violence cases.
With unemployment up and people being encouraged to stay home, those two areas have risen. Jessica Bagget, managing attorney for Legal Aid Society offices in Lorain County, said the organization’s domestic violence intakes have risen since the pandemic began.
“These victims were pretty much forced, per se, with the abuser because of the virus,” Bagget said. “We’ve definitely seen an uptick in that. As many as did apply for our services in Lorain County, there certainly is the feeling that probably not everybody called to seek services out of fear for themselves, for their family and where would they go.”
Legal Aid Society can help victims file civil protection orders and help them figure out what the next steps are, whether that be a divorce or a continued protection order. Bagget said Legal Aid partners with Genesis House to help victims.
Bagget said getting a Civil Protection Order can ease victims' fear and give them a sense of safety from their abuser. Legal Aid has started offering an online intake process people can fill out since their offices are closed to walk-ins.
“That’s definitely a need and it hasn’t decreased at all in Lorain County,” Bagget said.
Since the shutdown started in March, Bagget said her office knew it was just a matter of time before eviction cases would start to rise.
“Rent wouldn’t be able to be paid, many would lose their jobs,” she said. “Eventually it’s going to come to a head and we’re going to have all of these people potentially homeless and not able to find new housing.”
If landlords file for eviction for no rent payment and they succeed, Bagget said that can hurt renters' credit report, which is often what potential landlords check before renting.
That’s why it’s important to call, Bagget said. No matter what the issue, she said Legal Aid can provide guidance for those situations.
Under the federal CARES Act, a moratorium was placed on some types of evictions until July 25. It restricts landlords from filing for evictions for nonpayment of rent, including fees or penalties.
Covered properties include federal housing rental programs covered by the Violence Against Women Act, properties with a federally backed mortgage loan and properties with a federally backed multifamily mortgage.
“A lot of people don’t know they are in these types of properties and it’s important that they know their rights,” Bagget said. “We want to talk to them, want them to call. We definitely want to avoid families being evicted and not having incomes because they’ve been laid off. There are opportunities for us to advocate.”
Legal Aid also covers other issues, including offering an unemployment hotline and issues getting benefits from the Department of Jobs and Family Services. If people contact them, Bagget said they can either help or provide other resources, like United Way, El Centro and other local organizations.
Legal Aid’s website is lasclev.org/ and its telephone is (888) 817-3777.
“Information is power and a lot of people don’t have the legal information,” she said. “And when you have it, you have power.”