By Beth Finkel
Every year landlords seeking evictions force nearly 300,000 New Yorkers into Housing Court. Some 90 percent of landlords have a lawyer present, while only 30 percent of tenants have legal representation. Not surprisingly, most tenants lose their case. Those tenants could wind up in homeless shelters—eviction being the No. 1 cause of homelessness—with enormous costs to city taxpayers. Providing tenants with legal representation could prevent about half of evictions and as a result save taxpayers an estimated $320 million per year, according to the Right to Counsel Coalition.
That’s why City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito should pass and Mayor Bill de Blasio should sign into law the Right to Counsel bill, which would guarantee free lawyers for low-income tenants facing eviction in New York City Housing Court. The Right to Counsel bill, 214-A, has the support of most of the City Council and the public advocate.
Right to Counsel is fair and fiscally responsible. New York City has already committed $62 million to provide legal representation to low-income individuals in housing court, and that funding has helped reduce evictions by 18 percent. The investment is well worth it. Making Right to Counsel the law will help more people get fair representation in court and avoid unnecessary and unfair evictions.
AARP New York