Washington (Associated Press)-As the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic continues until 2021, millions of American tenants are preparing to accept the possibility of appearing in housing court to avoid eviction. But unlike their landlords, only a small part of them will be commissioned by lawyers.
Less than 10 cities and counties across the country guarantee that tenants have the right to have lawyers in housing-related disputes. For those struggling to make ends meet, lawyers cannot afford it, leaving many people skipping court hearings or knowing them. There is almost no money opportunity. Unlike criminal cases, if someone cannot afford a lawyer, no lawyer will be assigned. Every year, legal aid organizations and unpaid lawyers represent many tenants, but their needs exceed their capacity.
Although housing advocates are mainly fighting for government rent reduction or exemption, experts also hope that more cities will join the campaign to give tenants lawyers the right.
Gretchen Purser, associate professor of sociology at Syracuse University, said: “Before the pandemic, the right to seek legal advice was particularly serious, given the pandemic and given the challenges faced by renters. The overall risk, this is particularly urgent and urgent.”
She said that legal representation “will become one of the most important things that groups across the country can fight for.”
During the health crisis, many people owe rent for months, are unemployed or face increasing medical expenses. According to estimates by global investment bank and consulting firm Stout, by January, tenants will owe as much as $34 billion. An estimated 23 million people are at risk of being deported.
Federal COVID-19 Relief Program These include $25 billion in rental assistance and the extension of the eviction moratorium to January.
Zachary Kettering believes that when he lost two jobs during the pandemic, defaulted on rent, and received notice in October to evacuate his one-bedroom apartment in the suburbs of Dallas McKinney, the suspension of vacation would be for him Provide protection.
But he became the victim of a warning from the housing lawyer: The CDC’s order is not a package suspension; the tenant must sign a statement and give a copy of it to the landlord. By the beginning of December, veteran Caitlin owed $6,900 in rent, and a police officer knocked on the door during the eviction notice.
A friend lent him money to repay his debts, and he agreed to sign a document with the landlord stating that he would not renew his rent in February in exchange for the case.
Kettering, 33, is now raising funds online. “It’s like you are playing a game and one of the people involved does not know the rules of the game. The stakes in that game are very high, and if you don’t play the game, you will be homeless.
The federal relief bill also includes $20 million in legal aid to renters.
In Baltimore, only 1% of tenants have legal representation in eviction cases, while landlords have 96%. But this month, Maryland’s largest city became the newest jurisdiction in the United States, granting tenants legal advice in these cases. A robust report estimated that 92% of tenants represented by Baltimore lawyers would avoid having to leave their homes.
The new regulations require the city’s Department of Housing and Community Development to hire non-profit legal organizations and call for funding to help promote and educate tenants. It gave the city four years to fully implement the requirements.
Matthew Hill, an attorney at the Center for Public Justice, who advocated the new law, said that Baltimore can withdraw funds from general funds and federal funds to pay for the program. He said that the Maryland legislature will also take a measure that proposes to obtain attorney rights, which may provide state funding for Baltimore’s efforts.
Hill said: “This should actually be a level playing field and it does provide tenants with an opportunity to enter, because eviction courts are usually just evictions, but tenants have a lot of defense,” he said, including whether the site is livable and whether Whether the landlord has permission. “Therefore, we want to try to change the eviction court into a housing court and ensure that we enforce the tenants’ right to safe, stable and healthy housing.”
The robust report estimates that investing $5.7 million a year to obtain legal representation for Baltimore tenants will save the city and state $35.6 million in housing for the homeless, Medicaid expenditures, school funds, and foster care.
In 2017, New York became the first city in the United States to be authorized by a housing court. According to a city report released this fall, between July 1 and June 30, 2019, 86% of tenants represented by lawyers were able to stay at home.
Other cities with similar laws include San Francisco, Philadelphia and Newark, New Jersey.
The Princeton University Deportation Laboratory said that before the pandemic, the United States had an average of 300,000 deportations per month. The patchwork of local and state guidelines, coupled with the federal suspension, provides some protection for people who cannot afford to pay rent. But in some places, including cities in South Carolina, Ohio, Florida and Virginia, tenants are losing their homes.
Pablo Estupinan, interim coordinator of the New York City Lawyers’ Rights Alliance, said that since the New York State Counsel Act came into effect three years ago, New York’s expulsion documents have decreased. But he said that landlord’s lawyers are putting increasing pressure on tenants, and sometimes people choose to leave because they may not know their rights.
“Because of the right of defense, we have seen the landlord change their strategy, and we must have heard from community members that the landlord’s lawyer is threatening them and said:’If you have a lawyer representing you, then I will double your case Work hard, and Estupinan said.