NYC The First City To Give Legal Protection To Tenants Facing Eviction

Image from NY Daily News

It’s easy to pick on the little guy.

Every day, minorities, the poor, the sick, undocumented, and ex-felons must contend with threats and exploitation to which most of the time they are virtually powerless.

Pursuing legal redress for wrongs costs money few barely scraping by possess; and if people are here illegally, they are going to be reluctant to call authorities that may just turn around and deport them.

Eviction is a common tactic to which the sick and underemployed are particularly susceptible.

But New York City has now become the first American city to take crucial steps to prevent this.

Last week, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed legislation guaranteeing access to lawyers to tenants who make below 200 percent of the federal poverty line facing eviction.

During the signing ceremony, the mayor said:

“Tenants will have this same opportunity as landlords to defend their interests. We’ve all seen plenty of times when someone had all the money, someone had all the power, and it was David and Goliath and good people lost because they just didn’t have the opportunity to defend themselves.”

Bronx resident Randy Dillard, a single parent with five children, commented that because of the city’s new law, many like him will no longer have to fear for their families’ well being due to the inability to afford legal representation.

He said:

“We believe landlords won’t take you to court just for nothing anymore, because now they know you have an attorney.”

A New York City Bar Association study found tenants in more than 80 percent of eviction cases would qualify for legal assistance. A 2001 study of low-income Manhattan tenants facing eviction uncovered that having legal counsel reduced evictions by 77 percent. 2007 intake data shows half the families in New York City’s homeless shelters became homeless within five years of being evicted.

The city’s new program is to be phased in over five years, starting with certain zip codes across all five boroughs, then expanded. In addition to the location-based implementation, housing advocates are urging the government to prioritize seniors and the disabled.

Featured image from NY Daily News.

Ted Millar is poet and teacher. His poetry has been in featured in myriad literary journals, including Caesura, Circle Show, Cactus Heart, Third Wednesday, and The Voices Project. He is also a contributor to Liberal Nation Rising.