Getting a Lawyer For Tenants
Getting a lawyer for tenants is an important step to take, especially in cases where the law is not on the tenants’ side. This is especially true in places like New York City and San Francisco, where tenants have been granted the right to seek legal advice. However, these protections are not yet in place for all tenants.
Legal protections for tenants aren’t in place
Among the hundreds of thousands of gimmicky gizmos and gadgets that clutter up our collective urban habitat, it is sometimes easy to forget about the plethora of human beings who share our living spaces. So how do we go about ensuring the well being of our neighbors? The answer lies in the form of a well-conceived tenant’s bill of rights policy. A tenant’s bill of rights is not merely a tenant’s lease, but rather a bundled set of tenets that includes, but is not limited to, reasonable rents, notice of eviction, evictions that are non-excusable, and notice of termination.
The most important element of a tenant’s bill of rights policy is the right to have a conversation with your landlord about your rights and responsibilities. There is also a small but important bureaucratic tussle to be dealt with when it comes to enforcing your rights. Luckily, there are several organizations in place to help the human occupants of our neighborhoods navigate the housing mines of mass and mass transit.
The legal department at our community’s social services agency is in the thick of the battle to protect our neighbors from the pitfalls of urban agglomeration. In the name of expediency, they have devised a clever albeit tad confusing tenant’s bill of rights policy.
New York City and San Francisco have granted tenants the “right to counsel”
Several local jurisdictions in the US, including New York City and San Francisco, have adopted the “right to counsel” (RTC) program. This right provides free attorney representation in housing court for low-income tenants. The right to counsel is based on the tenant’s interest in meaningful access to the judicial system.
New York City’s Office of Civil Justice (OCJ) aims to provide free legal counsel to all tenants who are evicted from their homes. This is the first truly universal right to counsel in the US. However, the program still requires tenants to qualify by income “means” testing. This creates a barrier to access and recaptures welfare stigmas.
New York City’s budget for tenant legal services has increased from $6 million in 2013 to $136 million in 2021. This is a testament to the City’s efforts to expand the RTC program. New York City has also catalyzed other cities to implement the program, including San Francisco.
Other local jurisdictions, including New Jersey, Boulder, Colorado, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Newark, New Jersey, have adopted right-to-counsel laws. Other cities, including Denver, Houston, and Santa Monica, are launching pilot programs in mid-2021.
The right to counsel can be a powerful tool for tenants who are facing eviction. It is a tool that can keep evictions off the record, buy time for a tenant, and help tenants understand the terminology in housing court. A legal defense is also a powerful tool for tenants who are seeking to protect their home from eviction. A legal defense can also stop an eviction before it begins.
Right-to-counsel programs vary in comprehensiveness and durability. Some are universal and provide counsel to all tenants who are facing eviction, while others are means-tested. The most comprehensive programs are those that eliminate means testing altogether. While there is no single solution to provide counsel to all tenants facing eviction, eliminating means testing is the simplest.
Right-to-counsel programs are also designed to deter abuses by providing an incentive for people to seek counsel before resorting to a knee-jerk eviction. This is because a home is a place of living, learning, and developing.
Ask people who have dealt with a tenant lawyer
Getting a tenant lawyer is not for the faint of heart. Most tenants do not have the luxury of a benevolent landlord. To be clear, there are many lawyers in the city but they all have their own unique quirks. It’s a shame they are not more accessible to tenants. The best way to find the best lawyer is to go in with a game plan, a list and a set of guidelines. It’s a great way to get the most out of your leasing contract. You can even have your lawyer handle all your lease paperwork if you choose. There are many legal pitfalls to avoid, and a good lawyer can make all the difference in the world. You’ll need to do some homework, but you should be rewarded with a new lease on life.