Know Your Legal Rights... and Organize!!

Zac Oswald is a staff attorney with the Legal Aid Society of Middle TN and the Cumberlands (LAS). LAS is a private, non-profit organization that provides free legal services to people with low income. They have 8 offices that serve 48 Tennessee counties.

In many cases, tenants come to Legal Aid Society after they’ve suffered a life-altering incident. Whether they are attempting to get essential repairs made on their apartment or a landlord is filing an eviction against them, by the time they’ve reached Legal Aid Society, our clients’ housing struggles have left them feeling helpless and hopeless. 

The Nashville Office of the Legal Aid Society of Middle TN & the Cumberlands (Legal Aid Society) has been collaborating with Homes For All Nashville (HFA) for approximately six months. During that time, we’ve reached out to numerous tenants with the assistance of HFA. In the last few months, we’ve coordinated three Landlord-Tenant trainings with the aid of HFA. Through these trainings, we have educated over sixty tenants on their housing rights. 

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Through the trainings offered by Legal Aid Society and sponsored by HFA, tenants learn essential skills to communicate with their landlords and protect themselves from tenuous situations. Furthermore, tenants gain a clear understanding of their rights under Tennessee's landlord-tenant law, rather than relying on search results from the internet, which are often misleading or incorrect. Landlords also benefit from these trainings. Not only are they welcome to attend, but landlords benefit from a tenant community educated on the proper method of corresponding and reporting issues to management, preventing issues that arise from a lack of communication

Legal Aid Society makes concerted efforts to market itself to tenants throughout Middle Tennessee; however, it’s nearly impossible to communicate with every tenant in our service area. Legal Aid Society relies on HFA’s direct contact with tenants and tenant organizations to bridge the gap between Legal Aid Society’s advertising efforts and tenants we aren’t reaching. HFA’s ability to bring tenants together for legal trainings has been a monumental help in reaching out to people we would have failed to otherwise reach.


Why Tenant Associations Are Important

Creating and sustaining tenant associations in the Nashville area is an integral part of providing tenant protections where the law does not. While complexes without tenant organizations may find themselves stuck bickering over mundane issues, a tenant organization provides an opportunity for tenants to bring their concerns together in a constructive way. Tenant associations provide residents with the ability to execute agreements and rules that mirror the goals of the entire community. When tenants organize, they become invested in the future of the community; they seek answers to questions like: Would we like our community to accept Section 8 vouchers? Would we like our community to remain affordable? Does our community believe there are reasonable steps that can be taken to secure the safety of all tenants? 

when tenants organize they can mirror the goals of the entire community

Tenant associations foster an environment where every tenant has the opportunity to become involved and invested in their community. When tenants are invested in their community, they give back; they make efforts to improve their surroundings and those who surround them. Given the opportunity, a healthy tenant organization helps ensure a fairly run management system and collaborates to create an improved community.

HFA advances all of these goals. Their efforts to establish and sustain tenant associations, helps renter communities advocate and enforce their goals, ideals, and rights. Their work helps ensure that tenants are educated about their rights in an apartment community, and can advocate for themselves where there may be gaps in general landlord-tenant laws. Legal Aid Society is proud of its relationship with HFA. We hope to sustain a long-term relationship and continue to support HFA, just as HFA supports renters throughout the community of Nashville.


Homes For All Nashville - Organizing to defend tenants' rights

With the increasing number of calls for organizing support, our small team of volunteer/in-kind organizers are functioning beyond capacity. HomesForAll is in desperate need of a dedicated staff person to aid in on-the-ground organizing and communications. We are so thrilled to be hiring Kennetha Patterson! ...but we need YOUR help reach our fundraising goal!