Dear Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins and Speaker Heastie,
With more than 270,000 eviction cases pending across the state, New York tenants need Right to Counsel! While many tenants in NYC have the Right to Counsel when facing eviction, the law currently does not cover everyone, and does not cover all the types of cases that could result in displacement. NYC's Right to Counsel law is also under threat from a state court system that has so far been unwilling to uphold NYC tenants' RTC--but our state law can fix this problem! Finally, tenants throughout the rest of the state do not have the Right to Counsel at all. In Albany, for example, in 2022’s third quarter, only 1.3% of tenants were represented in Albany civil court while 91.8% of landlords had attorneys. 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 passed Right to Counsel as of 2021 have seen up to a 77 percent reduction in evictions. In 2021, 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 ensure A1493 / S2721, our statewide Right to Counsel bill, is included in the fiscal year 2024 budget, to ensure ALL New Yorkers have the Right to Counsel when facing displacement.