September 29, 2021
Justice for Breakfast discussion
Presentation by Maria Roumiantseva, Associate Coordinator, National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel
In response to the threat that the COVID-19 pandemic poses to people’s housing, the national movement to establish a right to counsel for tenants facing eviction is surging. Ten cities and three states, including Baltimore City and Maryland, have enacted a right to counsel for tenants since 2017, and dozens of other cities and states are on the road to similar enactments.
Without a right to counsel, fewer than 3% of tenants on average are represented in eviction proceedings, compared with 81% of landlords. This imbalance in representation contributed to the eviction crisis even before COVID-19, when over three million households faced eviction, most significantly impacting Black women. At present, over seven million tenants are at risk of eviction, with tenants of color continuing to be at risk at a disproportionate rate. Data shows that represented tenants are far more likely to either remain stably housed or preserve housing stability by obtaining relief such as additional time to move and a clean eviction record. Representation is especially crucial during COVID-19, as eviction can lead to increased exposure to the virus, and new legal protections, such as eviction moratoria, often require legal representation to be effective.
The National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel (NCCRC), a project of the Public Justice Center, has played a critical role in advocating for the right to an attorney in eviction cases. The NCCRC seeks to expand the right to counsel for low-income people in civil cases that involve basic human needs, such as shelter, safety, sustenance, health, and child custody. Watch the video to hear about recent and significant right to counsel developments related to eviction, as well as child welfare and adult guardianship. You can learn more about the NCCRC by visiting www.civilrighttocounsel.org.