When eviction looms, landlords have lawyers. Now more tenants do too.

Thanks to Mecklenburg County funding, once or twice a week lawyers from Legal Aid of North Carolina’s Charlotte office wait outside eviction court to assist tenants. Today, half a dozen lawyers are available. The next two hours will probably determine whether Diaz and Pat lose their homes within a few days.

News Story (North Carolina)

Mary Newsom
Charlotte Observer
September 30, 2019

Tags: Housing: Eviction

Organizations mentioned/involved: Legal Aid of North Carolina (LANC)


Neither woman has a lawyer today. That’s typical for tenants facing eviction. A study from the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute examining one month of eviction cases from 2016 found 82% of landlords had legal representation. And tenants? Eighty-four percent didn’t even show up in court. Over the past 30 years, a number of research studies of housing courts around the country have found the proportion of tenants with legal counsel can range from 0 to 20%.

The county allocated $300,000 for Legal Aid in the last fiscal year and a total of $800,000 this fiscal year, which started July 1. That puts Mecklenburg among a small but growing number of places such as Virginia, Washington state and Durham spending government money to give tenants access to lawyers in eviction cases. Three cities – New York, San Francisco and Newark, N.J. – have even enacted “right-to-counsel” measures to guarantee legal representation to low-income tenants. Results are notable: In New York, 84% of tenants who got legal representation were able to stay in their homes.

Charlotte’s Legal Aid office is showing similar results: Of the tenants with Legal Aid representation last fiscal year, 85% saw their eviction either prevented or delayed.