As reported by Vice this week, a company called Civvl says evicting people is the "FASTEST GROWING MONEY MAKING GIG DUE TO COVID-19."
During a time of great economic and general hardship, many people are struggling to make ends meet, while others are trying to monetize on their hardship. Due to high unemployment, closed businesses and economic uncertainty millions are struggling to pay their rent. Being part of the small business sector process service agencies and individual process servers have seen their volume of services diminish. When both sides of the economy are struggling, a new startup is enlisting cash-strapped gig workers like process servers to help landlords evict tenants who cannot make rent during the Covid-19 pandemic. The company, named Civvl, aims to be Uber for evicting people, and to make it easy for landlords to hire process servers and eviction agents as gig workers. In addition to the ethical issues here, who is a startup like Civvl really helping?
It is not the first time that startups have tried to streamline service of process and make money off of process servers or streamline taxi service, making money off of drivers, as in the Uber case. Equipped with the right app building skills and an interested initial investor, a tech company can easily create an app overnight and throw money at it to market it. Similar to other apps, Civvl simply provides an online platform where during a time when there is a federal ban on evictions, the startup appears to pass all risk onto the companies using its platform. As the site states, it simply “provides lead generation to independent contractors," and does not actually carry out the work itself. Both landlords and process servers will be the ones responsible for the proper and legally correct service of notices to tenants, and they will be the ones carrying the ultimate burden while Civvl will monetize for using its app. A spokesman for the company, as reported by CBSNews, emphasized that Civvl is not actually carrying out evictions, but rather connecting independent junk haulers or process server contractors with opportunities to clear out property. "It's basically like a job center," the spokesman said. "This is no different than you going on Monster.com."
What are Civvl Craigslist Ads Looking for?
The listings in 17 cities, tracked by Princeton's Eviction Lab, call for workers who are a minimum of 18 years old, and brags that it provides a “true flexible schedule” and a “minimal background check.” The average Civvl worker, the post says, completes six jobs a day. Workers hired through Civvl are classified as independent contractors and are required to have their own car and liability insurance, among other things. The terms also ask users to give up their rights to sue the company and agree to resolve any disputes in arbitration.
What the Startup Charges?
The app charges workers $35 a month to use the service on top of a 30% cut of their earnings, according to its terms of service.
Do Apps like Civvl Benefit Process servers and Clients?
Let’s look at what legal professionals and process servers need in order to successfully complete the delivery of legal documents and let’s see to what extent this can be achieved by fast money-making apps like Civvl.
While it is tempting for tech companies like Civvl to try and monetize on gig workers like process servers, service of process still remains “personal” and it is still the most reliable way to ensure compliance with constitutionally imposed due process of notice to a defendant and the opportunity to be heard. Without proper service of process a court has no jurisdiction over a defendant and may not proceed. While it may look easy to create an app and connect a process server with a client, the “personal” factor still remains a huge component in service of process. Quality is still very much dependent on the knowledge and professionalism of both clients and process servers, and human management remains a very important part of service of process, a part that new apps cannot resolve at this time.
FIND OUT HOW WE HELP PROCESS SERVERS SUCCEED