Tenants facing eviction almost never have lawyers. Now, an attorney trawls a courthouse lobby handing out free advice

Tenants facing eviction in Virginia are almost never represented by lawyers. But that’s about to change as a flood of cash begins to flow to legal aid groups around the state.

News Story (Virginia)

Ned Oliver
Virginia Mercury
May 15, 2019

Tags: Housing: Eviction

Organizations mentioned/involved: Central Virginia Legal Aid Society, Virginia Poverty Law Center (VPLC), Equal Justice Works (DC)


“It’s a lot,” says Christie Marra, a staff attorney at the Virginia Poverty Law Center who is leading a statewide campaign to reduce evictions.

She said that while many cases rise and fall on a tenant’s ability to pay rent, advice from a lawyer and their participation in negotiations with landlords can make a big difference, and that help is something that’s historically been hard to come by for low-income tenants facing eviction.

She pointed to a study released last year by the National Center for State Courts, which found that both sides in civil cases are represented by lawyers just 1 percent of the time in district court, where eviction cases are heard. When a lawyer is involved, they almost always represent the person filing the suit, be it a landlord or debt collector, and they usually win the case, the study found.