Amherst council supports legislation requiring legal aid for indigents facing eviction

By a 13-0 vote Monday, the Town Council approved a resolution supporting a bill pending in the state Legislature that would provide legal assistance for indigent tenants facing eviction.

News Story (Massachusetts)

Jim Russell
MassLive
February 25, 2020
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Tags: Housing: Eviction, Housing: Right to Counsel


DETAILS

The council’s resolution also supports a separate bill that would bar the public from viewing court records in eviction cases until 30 days after the case has been decided. Once unsealed, the records would remain public for three years, “unless a shorter period is designated by court order upon good cause shown or by agreement of the parties,” the bill says.

The Amherst Town Council resolution says: “In a one-year period from July, 2018 through June, 2019 there were 74 summary process eviction cases in the Housing Court involving Amherst residents with 71 landlords represented by a lawyer while only 2 tenants were represented by an attorney.”

The right to counsel bill would require landlords seeking to evict an individual or family to notify them in writing of their right to legal representation. “If the occupant is not able to retain counsel because the occupant is indigent, counsel shall be appointed,” the proposed law states.