Cities Are Guaranteeing Tenants Access To A Lawyer To Help Them Fight Eviction

In eviction cases, 90% of landlords have a lawyer, and 90% of tenants do not. To fight gentrification and displacement, cities are trying to correct that imbalance.

News Story (District of Columbia, NATIONAL, New York)

Eillie Anzilotti
Fast Company
August 24, 2017

Tags: Civil Right to Counsel, Housing: Eviction

Organizations mentioned/involved: National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel (NCCRC), D.C. Access to Justice Commission (DCAJC), Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia


But over the past year, a handful of cities have introduced efforts to rectify this imbalance by expanding the right to counsel, usually just applicable to criminal court, to also include eviction cases. In criminal cases, a defendant’s right to counsel is guaranteed under the Sixth Amendment; in civil cases, that mandate does not apply, even though, as Beth Harrison, supervising attorney for the Housing Law unit of the Legal Aid Society for the District of Columbia tells Fast Company, “civil cases can have such dire consequences for individuals–the effect that eviction can have on employment, stability, educational outcomes, and health outcomes is devastating.”

Dillard saw, during his eviction proceeding, his daughter’s high school grade average fall from a B to a D, and one of his sons get arrested. Though he held himself together for his children’s sake, he recalls the two and a half years of uncertainty one of the most stressful times of his life.