Memphis' BEST wants renters to know their rights

[Correction Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the federal eviction moratorium was in effect in Memphis through October 3. It has been updated.]

Memphis’ Blight Elimination Steering Team (BEST) has released a one-page guide for people who live in rental properties.

The Renter’s Rights Overview has brief explanations of common questions about topics like leases, evictions, and repairs. It also includes a list of important phone numbers tenants can call for more information on discrimination, disputes, and other concerns.

It’s timely, as the federal eviction moratorium expired in Tennessee in July. The Associated Press said in a recent release that the current extension on the federal eviction moratorium is set to expire on October 3, but that extension does not apply in Tennessee due to a ruling by a sixth circuit federal court judge.

BEST's Vincent Sawyer said it’s important that renters know their rights now. 

“The most important thing that renters should take away from this [overview] would be to understand your rights before making decisions that affect your housing,” said Sawyer.

Sawyer is co-chair of BEST’s code committee and staff attorney for Neighborhood Preservation, Inc, which is a BEST member.

“One of our initiatives in the code committee of BEST was to shed light on renters' rights, and that one-pager was a product of that initiative," he said.

Sawyer said further assistance and a more comprehensive renter's guide are available from the Memphis Fair Housing Center, a service of Memphis Area Legal Services. Renters who need more support can call MFHC at (901) 432-4663 or visit the office at 22 N. Front St.,11th Floor.

The one-page guide is not currently available online, but this article will be updated if it's made available.

The AP also attributed the extension of the eviction moratorium to U.S. states’ slow distribution of federal aid.

“Congress provided $46.5 billion in rental assistance funds through the American Rescue Plan, but only about one-tenth has yet been distributed,” said Tennessee’s Congressman Steve Cohen in a press release. “I want to encourage renters and landlords with past due rent and utility bills to take advantage of the COVID-19 Emergency Rental and Utilities Assistance Program if you are eligible.”

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Read more articles by Sarah Rushakoff.

Sarah Rushakoff was raised in Memphis and is a graduate of White Station High School and the University of Memphis. She is a longtime member of Our Own Voice Theatre Troupe and works professionally as a graphic designer, writer, and photographer.