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Minnesota, Westchester County, NY, Jersey City, NJ, and St. Louis, MO, are latest jurisdictions with right to counsel for tenants facing eviction

July 11, 2023

The National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel (which the PJC facilitates) congratulates Minnesota, Westchester County, NY, Jersey City, NJ, and St. Louis, MO, for passing a right to counsel for tenants in eviction cases, bringing the total jurisdictions with this right to 22.

Westchester County becomes 19th jurisdiction and first county: The Westchester County Board of Legislators unanimously passed legislation establishing the right to counsel for income eligible tenants facing eviction and other specified proceedings. However, the right is subject to a four-year sunset provision (the first of its kind in the country), which legislators claimed would allow them to restructure the law.

Minnesota becomes 20th jurisdiction and fourth state: As part of a general budget bill, Minnesota established a limited right to counsel for public housing tenants threatened with eviction for an alleged breach of lease. It is the second program in the country to specify that the court will appoint counsel for a tenant who cannot afford counsel. The law takes effect on August 1, 2023.

Jersey City becomes 21st jurisdiction and 16th city: In June 2023, the Jersey City Council approved an ordinance establishing a right to counsel for tenants. The law covers evictions, proceedings to terminate housing subsidies, proceedings related to violations of the maintenance code, and proceedings related to violations of rent control laws. The right to counsel is expected to cost roughly $4 million and will be funded via passage of a separate ordinance that collects developer fees.

St. Louis becomes 22nd jurisdiction and 17th city: In July 2023, St. Louis enacted an ordinance that provides a right to counsel for all tenants facing eviction. The ordinance covers both court evictions and termination of subsidies, extra-judicial evictions, unlawful utility disconnections, or the functional equivalent of any of these. The program must be implemented by July 1, 2024, and the Coordinator is required to work with community groups on outreach and education.