A most uncivil app for evicting people from their homes
We’ll admit that we had to do a double-take when we first saw the CIVVL website and its gleeful claims that they’re creating jobs by kicking people out of their homes during a pandemic.
COVID-19’s relentless economic devastation
COVID-19’s devastating economic impact has put millions of people behind on rent and mortgage, and while there appeared to be some temporary protection from evictions, not a day went by when there wasn’t at least one story about someone being thrown out on the street despite it.
When CBS News ran a story on the app in September, a spokesman for the company clarified that Civvl isn’t evicting people, they’re just “connecting independent junk haulers or 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.’
Umm. Yes it is.
Is this the gig economy we want?
With sympathy to landlords who also have bills to pay, this isn’t the kind of disruptive economy we were promised a few years back when we were all told the gig economy could allow us to work whenever we wanted and do what we love.
After Vice reported about Civvl, app stores were flooded with one-star reviews from people who never used the service. They even claimed that that app was encouraging human rights violations.
According to CBS: “The company behind Civvl is OnQall, a gig-economy app that lets people post listings for jobs like house painting, car maintenance, yard work or photography.”
And in another bit of charming PR, a Civvl spokesperson said:
This is just an issue that we didn’t cause, but we are needed. This is something that has to be done. Listen, if someone is killed on the street, someone needs to go pick their body up.
This person appears to be a master of bad analogies.
Ashwin Rodrigues from Vice spoke to eviction prevention specialist Philip DeVon, who made a more apt analogy:
It’s very dishonest,” DeVon said of Civvl. “It’s like, ‘Oh, don’t call us a hitman. We don’t pull the trigger! We just connect you with someone who’s willing to.’
According to Princeton’s Eviction Lab, landlords in the U.S. alone have filed for 151,165 evictions during the pandemic.
Even those who would like to sign up for the service seem to have problems with the company. Plenty of reviews call it a “scam.”
And while we can’t confirm how well it works, that seems beside the point.
The real questions are about whether this is a legitimate convenience for cash-strapped landlords or the height of incivility.
Ashwin Rodrigues, “Gig Economy Company Launches Uber, But for Evicting People” (Vice, 2020)
Irina Ivanova, “New App Creates Jobs In A Burgeoning Field: Evictions” (CBS News, 2020)