The federal moratorium on evictions, issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is expected to expire at the end of this month. No more extensions, says the Biden administration. Many cities and states have their own protections that will last longer.
But delays in providing billions of dollars in rent relief to tenants and landlords in need could put many people at risk of eviction when these protections expire. Of the $ 25 billion passed by Congress in December, the Treasury Department said only $ 1.5 billion was spent by the end of May.
Tenant advocates, however, say there is something else that could help prevent mass evictions: legal aid.
Deanna Marshall faced eviction last fall in Philadelphia after a dispute with her landlord over repairs. Her lawyer made a deal, giving her more time to find new accommodation.
Marshall, a former housing advocate, said she likely could have represented herself.
“Unfortunately, there is something about having legal representation there that makes people take you a little more seriously.[ly],” she said.
Philadelphia is one of a handful of cities and states that recently adopted legislation guarantee the right to counsel. The law offers low-income tenants, like Marshall, free access to legal aid in eviction cases.
While most landlords show up to housing court with lawyers, tenants rarely do, according to John pollock, with the National Coalition for a Civil Law Lawyer.
“Without a lawyer, tenants don’t successfully plead for more time, they don’t successfully plead for the eviction not to be permanently on their record and they end up with much larger rent judgments.” , did he declare.
New York City passed a Right to Lawyer Act in 2017. Since then, more than 85% of tenants with representation were able to stay in their homes, said Jenny Laurie of the nonprofit Housing Court Answers.
“And during the pandemic, you can count on maybe two hands now the number of tenants who have been physically evicted from their apartments,” Laurie said.
Brett Waller represents landlords at the Washington Multi-Family Housing Association.
Washington became the first state to adopt the right to an attorney this spring. He said his group actually supported the measure.
“Resolution is often easier when both parties are represented,” he said, “because the tenant feels like they have someone in their corner and can help them achieve that resolution more. quickly. “
Not to mention that an eviction in Washington, he said, can cost homeowners between $ 5,000 and $ 8,000.