In NYC, every tenant facing eviction is now entitled to a lawyer

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How about this: every time someone is in front of a judge, they should be entitled to a lawyer. Crazy, right?


In a criminal proceeding, yes. Eviction is a civil matter - you can’t go to prison for stiffing the landlord.

Speaking of which, are NYC Public Defenders just sitting around idle these days? Because, while you may be “entitled,” that doesn’t mean high-price lawyers will be jumping at the chance to do some pro bono work. The result is that it will take years and years to evict anybody.

So why pay rent, ever again?


A notch on the optimist side.

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Well, yes, you can, actually. But even if you don’t, loosing housing can mean a family being split up, loosing a job, getting into debt, squatting. Poor people don’t usually have a lot of rich friends and family to borrow from or savings to live off of.

And having access to legal advice doesn’t mean you can stop paying rent. It just means that when something wrong happens you’ll know what your options are and are able to protect yourself and your family.

Believe it or not, people usually pay rent.


Withdrawn, not well enough researched on my part, and thank you JPollo02 for thorough follow up.

The headline is misleading. It actually calculates out to political posturing.

For tenant income to be 200% or lower of the federal poverty level to qualify for this grandiose offer, that income would have to fall below:

Household / 2x poverty
1 / $24K
2 / $32.5K
3 / $41K
4 / $49K
5 / $57.5K

In NYC, the average 1 bedroom apartment costs $44K/year. So, just about everyone who could be protected by this is already priced out of the city.

It would have been more protective to offer eviction defense based current or proposed future rent as a percentage of income.

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I’m admittedly ignorant on this, but aren’t there rent controlled apartments where the rent is considerably less than the 44k you quote and considerably less than the free market would support?

I am too, admittedly… but wouldn’t attempts to boot those tenants go to a rent control board?

This might not be all that bad, esp. in NY

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NYC’s own Independent Budget Office estimated in a report that even if eligibility was capped at 125% of the federal poverty level, over 86,000 households would be eligible for appointed counsel. And the final version of the bill upped the income level to 200%, meaning even more families. So this is by no means political posturing.

Additionally, to answer the comment about tenants not going to jail (and some do indirectly go to jail by virtue of becoming homeless and subsequently getting arrested for vagrancy, loitering, or disturbing the peace) why should that be the line of demarcation as to whether someone is entitled to counsel? For instance, is going to jail for a single day (the trigger for appointed counsel on the criminal side) more important than losing your home? Your life-sustaining medical benefits? Your children? Or even your life, in the case of not being able to obtain a domestic violence protective order? All of those things I mentioned are technically civil. We should be focused on what’s at stake, not on the case label. In fact, the current focus on the label is why, in many states, you can go directly to jail without getting counsel for failing to pay a court fine or fee, because the proceeding is technically civil. An emphasis on formalism is depriving people of access to justice and fundamental fairness.

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