City Council passes bill right to counsel bill for low-income tenants

Philadelphia City Council passed legislation for taxpayers to pay the legal bills of low-income tenants who are facing eviction on Thursday, sending the bill to Mayor Jim Kenney.

News Story (Pennsylvania)

Michael D’Onofrio
Philadelphia Tribune
November 14, 2019

Tags: Housing: Right to Counsel

Organizations mentioned/involved: Philadelphia Bar Association, Community Legal Services (CLS) of Philadelphia


The so-called right to counsel bill will guarantee tenants with a household income below 200% of the federal poverty line free legal representation when fighting evictions, lease terminations and similar issues in Landlord Tenant Court. An estimated 22,000 evictions are filed in Philadelphia annually, representing one in 14 renters, and Black women and their children are disproportionately affected.

A report last year found a $3.5 million investment to provide legal counsel to low-income tenants facing eviction could save the city an estimated $45 million annually.

The Philadelphia Bar Association’s report found that tenants had legal counsel in an average of 7% of cases over a 10-year period, compared with 80% for landlords. Unrepresented tenants were disruptively displaced in 78% of cases, while that rate plummeted to 5% for tenants with legal representation.