New website ‘Hello Landlord’ helps give renters back their voice

Updated: Jun. 29, 2019 at 11:22 AM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Arizona's eviction rate is on the rise while affordable housing is dropping.

In Pima County over the last four years, 50,000 people have been kicked out of their homes and those are just the ones that made it to court. Last year alone, more than 13,000 evictions were filed and according to local leaders a lack of affordable housing is making the problem worse.

One factor that is common in evictions? The lack of communication between the renter and the landlord.

"Up until now there’s a current problem where people just don’t try to communicate anything they just stop paying or the land lord quickly become upset.”

Michael Newman is one of the students at the University of Arizona who spent a semester developing a new website that launched this week. It’s called Hello Landlord, a free letter generating tool that gives renters back their voice.

U of A Law students, along with Director of the Innovation for Justice Program Stacy Butler, started working with BYU Law about a year ago to brainstorm on how to help prevent evictions before they happened.

All anyone has to do is answer a few questions for it to generate a letter based on their situation. It’s available in English and Spanish and can be used across the United States.

During this past year, Newman said it was an eye-opening experience of talking to tenants, landlords, and making trips to the courthouse to see it happen in real time.

“I was there for about an hour and a half in the morning and witnessed something like 35 evictions in that time,” said Newman.

So they turned to technology. Using a simple questionnaire to help tackle a problem on the rise here in Pima County.

"Our formal eviction rate in Pima county is about 13,000 individuals or families a year,” Bonnie Bazata, the Program Manager of MAMA or Mothers in Arizona Moving Ahead works with women who have experienced eviction firsthand.

“I was surprised how many moms had gone through it or come right up to the edge of it or had some experience with housing instability,” said Bazata.

Their personal experience helped shape this site that is expected to make quite the impact.

"We spoke to some landlords and about 90 percent of them said they would be moved by this,” said Newman.

Moved by something that takes minutes to do and is only a few clicks away.

“I think it is a real missing piece in what could be used to avoid evictions or address other issues that tenants are facing,” said Bazata.

The HelloLandlord website states that they cannot guarantee that their letter will work. However, their tests show that landlords were more receptive when tenants write a respectful letter.

The website is not only to help prevent evictions, but to help tenants communicate if they need repairs done as well.

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