Hate Your Shady Landlord? Here’s Something to Celebrate

Cities across America are taking steps to help low-income people get lawyers to fight eviction in court.

News Story (NATIONAL)

David Dayen
August 23, 2017

Tags: Civil Right to Counsel, Housing: Eviction

Organizations mentioned/involved: National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel (NCCRC), Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia, Public Justice Center (PJC), Judicial Council of California Administrative Office of the Courts


After years of trying to affirm a right to counsel through state legislatures and courts, activists have turned to big cities, with an emphasis on housing. There have been other initiatives, too—Los Angeles recently bolstered a legal defense fund for immigration cases. But housing has become a priority because the social costs of eviction for citizens and non-citizens alike are high—and the disparities in legal clout between tenants and landlords even higher.

“Housing is foundational to all of us, frankly,” said Beth Harrison of the Legal Aid Society of Washington, DC, another city working on establishing right to counsel. “It’s hard to get a job, take care of your children and get them off to school if you don’t have stable housing.” In addition, the growing affordable housing crisis creates incentives for landlords to evict long-time tenants and convert apartments to capitalize on higher rents.