‘I have to do what I have to do’: Memphis renters fight to understand legal rights

MEMPHIS, TENN. — At 60 years old, Muriel Stallworth said she is fighting a rat infestation in her Hickory Hill rental home.

“I have to do what I have to do,” she told FOX13. “I’m not going to be on the street.”

Stallworth attended the State of Memphis Housing Summit to understand her rights as a tenant.

According to the city, Memphis needs 30,000 more housing units for renters and buyers. That number includes replacement units for properties in poor condition.

RELATED: Local leaders to address rising rent costs and more at Memphis housing summit

“We have lots of affordable housing in Memphis,” said Mayor Jim Strickland. “A lot of is not quality.”

“You find people that are paying relatively low rents, but the conditions that they are living in are really poor,” said Ashley Cash, director of the city’s Division of Housing and Community Development.

“The problem is, the law itself is so landlord-friendly,” explained Cindy Ettingoff, the CEO and general counsel for Memphis Area Legal Services. “There is such a shortage of available affordable housing. ”When tenants need repairs in their homes, Ettingoff told FOX13 that landlords are not required to act quickly or move a tenant into a safer apartment.

“There are just so incredibly many of them,” she explained. “The need is so great. We are so determined to address it, but it takes money and it takes attorneys.”

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