Record number of Charleston County evictions leads to new court system

Record number of Charleston County evictions leads to new court system

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A new pilot program aims to create a new Charleston County court system that focuses solely on evictions.

The program is called the Charleston Hosing Court Pilot Project, and according to an administrative order would provide access to legal representation for tenants in Charleston County facing evictions.

According to a study by Princeton University, North Charleston is the top evicting city in the United States.

The study found that 10 households were being evicted a day and 16.5 renter homes are evicted each year with more than 3,600 homes being evicted in 2016.

“Charleston is number one for a lot of things. We don't want to be number one for evictions,” Director of Charleston Pro Bono Legal Services Alissa Lietzow said.

Lietzow said the project was brainstormed after the Princeton report was released.

“After that we got together with our local magistrate judges, and said, ‘What can we do? How can we respond?’”Lietzow said.

Lietzow said the representation will come in two parts: through legal representation provided through Trident United Way’s 211 call line, and having eviction hearings be the only thing on the docket, as well as having free legal representation available on the day of the hearing.

“The second part of the program is for people who do not call 211 and show up to court for their eviction hearing date, will be met with a pro bono attorney and offered an opportunity to meet with that attorney talk about their case,” Lietzow explained. “And then that attorney can represent them in court that day.”

Lietzow said this program aims to prevent wrongful evictions.

“We want to prevent wrongful evictions. We want to get that eviction number down. When somebody gets evicted it affects everybody. It obviously affects the person being evicted, but it also affects the community as a whole,” Lietzow said.

The administrative order for the project said, “One 80 Place Legal Services will be responsible for coordinating with the Charleston County Magistrate Courts and the other participating agencies to ensure that the Housing Court Pilot Project process is being followed and meeting the needs of tenants at risk of being evicted.”

The program is excepted to begin this Fall.

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