The Craigslist ad filed under jobs in Hillsborough County started with a tantalizing offer: “Earn up to $125/hr. Sign up here and start working in less than a week.”
The ad’s author, a new app company called Civvl, states “there is plenty of work due to the dismal economy” and brands itself as the gig economy solution to a problem that’s top-of-mind in the coronavirus age: evictions.
“We are seeking: clean out crews, eviction crews, independent contractors, process servers,” the ad read. “Choose your own days to work.”
The ads, which were reported across the country by national news outlets, sparked outrage, with critics accusing Civvl of blatantly circling over a stressed rental market, waiting to profit off the predicted upcoming wave of evictions. The Hillsborough County ad was recently “deleted by its author,” according to the error message on the page. Ads in other cities have been similarly removed.
“Civvl exposes what has long been a violent and inhumane eviction process stacked against working-class people struggling to make ends meet,” said Alana Greer, director of the Community Justice Project, a Miami group that provides legal services for low-income clients and is also part of a larger advocacy group called the Florida Housing Justice Alliance. “Profiting off of evictions, many of which are illegal, isdisgraceful.”
Civvl was created roughly five months ago, according to a company representative, who did not respond to a follow-up email asking where it’s based. In its terms of service, the company lists a Nevada address. But a LinkedIn page for the version of the app for Civvl’s workers, called Civvl Agent, lists its location as San Francisco. The domain for Civvl’s website is registered in Kentucky.
In Florida, it has raised eyebrows from housing lawyers who point out that eviction is a complex legal process that must go through the courts, and sheriff’s deputies are the only ones authorized to carry out an eviction once a case has been completed. Additionally, process servers — the people who deliver summonses for eviction cases and other court documents — must be certified and appointed by a judge or sheriff.
There’s also a national eviction moratorium in place from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, though that only applies to tenants if they submit a declaration form to their landlord swearing that they meet certain qualifications.
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