Philadelphia renters forced to deal with major issues — or risk eviction

“The importance of the right to counsel bill can’t be minimized,” says Rachel Garland, a veteran of the city’s eviction courts and managing attorney at Community Legal Services. “This is a very large step for Philadelphia.”

News Story (Pennsylvania)

Steve Volk
December 18, 2019

Tags: Housing: Eviction, Housing: Right to Counsel

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


In November, Philadelphia passed a Right to Counsel bill that will provide a free attorney to anyone who faces eviction and earns income at 200% or less of the federal poverty level. The bill curbs the historic imbalance of power between property owners and renters, which plays out most dramatically in court.

There, landlords have traditionally employed attorneys about 81% of the time compared with 8% of renters. The disparity shows in the results, tabulated in a report compiled for the Philadelphia Bar Association: 78% of renters without attorneys face “disruptive displacement,” saddling them with debt or even leaving them homeless; while 95% of renters with lawyers wind up with better results all around, ranging from less cash owed and more time to move to full judgments in their favor.