You may remember that right around the holidays, a cold snap left Americans in multiple states without electricity, running water, and safe means of travel. For some Kentuckians, the freezing temperatures even cost them their housing.
When pipes burst at the Veridian Apartments, tenants were left with standing water in their units: caved-in ceilings: damaged belongings: and no drinking water, water to flush their toilets, and no
showers for eight days. Many had to find temporary housing. When tenants finally got back into their homes, they had little time to rest. Rent was due. Despite being displaced at no fault of their own, tenants were expected to cover their full month's rent. Veridian management refused to prorate rent to align with the days tenants were forced out of their homes. When tenants couldn't pay their rent in full, Veridian management threatened them with eviction, and in some instances filed eviction cases for non-payment for units that suffered damage and loss of property with no compensation.
Tenants showed up to court in late January demanding Veridian management respect their rights. KEJC Housing Justice Attorney Stefanie Ebbens-Kingsley made herself available to any tenant who wanted legal representation. Eleven of the 13 tenants successfully challenged their landlord that day, and each person who showed up to court to assert their rights got to stay in their homes. Stefanie defended tenants by citing a failure to provide essential services and asserting that these tenants had legal defenses to the landlord’s failure to provide those essential services.
Research shows that the majority of tenants who don't have representation in eviction court end up losing their housing, but just showing up for court is the first step. Having access to competent, free legal counsel can increase positive outcomes for tenants in eviction court. From negotiated move outs that give more time to court trials on the factual disputes, lawyers make a difference in the courtroom for tenants. Over 90% of landlords show up to court with legal assistance, and traditionally only 3% of tenants come to court represented. Fortunately, our team is working with Lexington Fayette Urban County government and groups like Legal Aid of the Bluegrass, Community Action Coalition, and KY Tenants to ensure every tenant facing eviction has access to legal counsel. We want to do the same across the Commonwealth.
You can support this work by donating to KEJC and KY Tenants. If you live in Lexington, you can also contact your councilmember and urge them to pass KY Tenants' Tenant Bill of Rights.