Texting tenants immediately after lawsuit is filed

Courts, legal aid groups, and diversion programs are using text messages to send reminders, referrals, and encouragement to tenants to participate in court and avoid eviction

Some legal aid groups, courts, and diversion programs are exploring how to use text messages to alert tenants about services, rights, and court hearings. The goal is to supplement the official court notice, by getting the tenant quick, accessible information about

  • their next steps after being sued (like filing an answer or attending the hearing)
  • their rights and process to expect
  • what services around legal help, rent assistance, or mediation are available

One of the main problems around eviction lawsuits is that tenants often don’t participate in the hearings or process. There are frequent no-shows or defaults at the hearing. If the tenant defaults, then the court may automatically issue an order for eviction. Texting can help increase participation.

How to set up a texting system? One option is to require landlords to include the tenants’ phone number when they file the lawsuit. Then the court or other associated group can send a text message with the reminder and services information.

Another option is to use a service like Thomson Reuter’s CLEAR database to look up the tenant’s phone number based on their address.

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