Give Tenants Lawyers

Eviction is a nationwide epidemic, and people faced with losing everything need representation.

Op-Ed (New York)

Brian Gilmore
New York Times (NYT)
October 9, 2018

Organizations mentioned/involved: Michigan State University Housing Law Clinic


With so much at stake, it’s unacceptable that in the average suit for eviction in the United States, tenants do not have legal counsel, while landlords do. In the District of Columbia, where I practiced as a tenant lawyer for many years, over 90 percent of landlords had lawyers and over 90 percent of tenants did not. This is representative of what’s happening across the country. In October 2017, a Pew Charitable Trust study found that 85 to 90 percent of landlords across the country have legal counsel in their eviction actions.

There is an obvious way to alter the legal inequity tenants often face in court, one that could reduce the bad outcomes they so often experience in eviction cases: Give all low- to moderate-income tenants free legal counsel, the same kind offered to people charged with criminal violations.