In NYC, every tenant facing eviction is now entitled to a lawyer

America's hedge-fund driven eviction epidemic is most keenly felt in New York City, where deep-pocketed corporate landlords use dirty tricks to evict families from rent-controlled apartments, creating an epidemic of homeless working families with children.

To counter this, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has enacted a law that provides a city-funded lawyer to any tenant facing eviction, where the tenant's income is 200 percent of the federal poverty level or less.

In NYC eviction proceedings, landlords are represented by counsel in 90% of cases, while tenants have legal counsel in 1 to 10% of cases.

"When you have that kind of imbalance, not occasionally but almost guaranteed in every case, it starts to change the entire way that the court works and the entire way that the justice system works," says John Pollock, coordinator for the National Coalition of the Civil Right to Counsel. "Cases are disposed of quickly. There's not really any due process."

Often, tenants have defenses to eviction lawyers would raise that could stop or at least postpone an eviction, such as improper notice or neglected repairs.

Fewer illegal evictions also means fewer households experiencing transitional homelessness, a crisis on the rise in America. That means reducing suffering for families but also limiting a substantial burden carried by cities. The coalition predicts an overall savings of $320 million per year, well above the program's costs.

New York City Guarantees a Lawyer to Every Resident Facing Eviction

[Kriston Capps/Citylab]

(Image: Mr.TinDC, CC-BY)