Dear Assembly Member / Senator,
With 1.2 million households behind on rent due to the COVID-19 pandemic and more than 226,000 eviction cases pending across the state, New York tenants need Right to Counsel! While some tenants are currently protected from eviction under the COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Protection Act, which passed in December 2020, housing courts remain open, eviction cases are moving through the courts, and New Yorkers continue to be evicted from their homes. These eviction protections are also set to expire this month – and when they do, the state must be prepared to protect ALL tenants from eviction. Furthermore, while many tenants in NYC have the Right to Counsel when facing eviction, the law currently does not cover everyone, such as families with incomes above 200 percent of the federal poverty level and tenants living in public housing. And tenants throughout the rest of the state do not have the Right to Counsel at all. That is unacceptable!
New York State’s eviction crisis will only get worse if we don’t enact permanent solutions that strengthen tenants’ rights and empower tenants to fight for their homes – Passing statewide Right to Counsel would do just that. Right to Counsel is proven to stop evictions – 84 percent of tenants in New York City who had a Right to Counsel lawyer won their case and the seven cities that now have Right to Counsel have seen up to a 77 percent reduction in evictions. Last year, Washington State, Maryland, and Connecticut also passed Right to Counsel statewide. Here in New York, the majority of cases are initiated by landlords and nearly all landlords have lawyers in eviction cases, while most tenants do not. This creates a power imbalance in the courts that favors landlords: For many landlords, evictions are essential to their business model. Landlords evict tenants because they have power, and because it increases their profits, not because the law supports them. Right to Counsel disrupts this business model by regulating the eviction process, changing the amount of power landlords have over tenants, and helping to stop evictions and displacement.
We CAN tip the scales of power and prevent mass eviction by ensuring that ALL tenants facing eviction have a Right to Counsel lawyer! That is why I’m urging you to cosponsor and pass A07570A / S06678A, our statewide Right to Counsel bill that would guarantee ALL tenants across New York State the right to quality legal representation when facing an eviction.