Committee passes ordinance to prevent eviction “set outs” and blight

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — More than 14,000 Memphians are on the verge of evictions as the federal eviction ban ends this summer.

As these evictions happen, a process known as “set outs” usually follows, and that’s when a landlord puts the evicted tenant’s belongings on the street.

Councilman JB Smiley said landlords are supposed to notify the city within 72 hours of setting out an evicted tenant’s belongings to the street so it can get picked up, but he said that isn’t happening.

“The property just sits on the street for over weeks, weeks at a time, months at a time, and nothing is done about it,” said Smiley.

He wanted a new ordinance requiring landlords to contract with a private entity to remove old belongings to an authorized landfill, storage unit, or charitable organization, but they can’t put it on the streets.

“Not only does it bring down the morale of the people who live in the community, but it sets a bad precedent for those looking to find places to dump trash,” said Smiley.

The Memphis Investor Group represents landlords across the city.

Board chairman Joe Kirkland said the city’s current ordinance has penalties in place for bad landlords.

“If the landlord isn’t following it, shame on the landlord,” said Kirkland.

Kirkland believes the city needs to enforce what’s already on the books before creating new rules.

“You can pass all the laws in the world, but if people don’t obey them, you gotta enforce them,” he said. “Passing another one is not going to make it any better.”

Councilman Smiley said the ordinance could result in a slight increase in security deposits for renters.

Additionally, he said Commissioner Van Turner is working on a similar ordinance for the county as well.

The ordinance passed a committee vote.

This story has been updated to show the committee’s vote.