A Fairer Evictions Court

Proposed legislation would provide free lawyers for Philly tenants at risk of evictions, similar to how defendants are guaranteed counsel in criminal court. Could it help even the playing field here, as it has in New York City?

News Story (Pennsylvania)

Steve Volk
Philadelphia Citizen
November 6, 2019

Tags: Housing: Right to Counsel

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


A study conducted for a Philadelphia Bar Association Task Force in 2018 concluded that a $3.5 million annual investment in attorneys for renters would save the city at least $39 million in eviction-related shelter, medical and social service costs. For instance, in Philadelphia, about 20 percent of those entering homeless shelters report eviction as the cause. At a cost of $40 per person, per day, with an average stay of six months, the city picks up an expensive tab.

According to statistics from Community Legal Services, which provides counsel through PEPP, tenants represented by lawyers save an average of $950 off what landlords are charging them, and get about 16 extra days before moving out. They are also about four times more likely to win a judgment outright. These improvements, say tenant advocates, often represent the difference between homelessness, or an unmanageable debt load, and the chance to move on.