After introducing our new bill last month, we are officially launching our "Right to Counsel, Power to Organize" campaign, calling for legislation (Intro 1104 and Intro 1529) to be passed to expand NYC's current Right to Counsel (RTC) law. We want to ensure that nearly all tenants facing an eviction have RTC and know about it. Sign our petition to Mayor DeBlasio now!
We are grateful that NYC Council Members Mark Levine and Vanessa Gibson, who championed the city's groundbreaking RTC legislation, have introduced two bills that would strengthen the law. Intro 1104 would increase RTC's income eligibility level and expand the types of eviction cases covered by RTC. Intro 1529 would require the city to support trusted tenant organizing groups to ensure that tenants exercise their rights.
Here is a little bit about why we are calling for these essential expansions:
Increase the income eligibility level: Currently, to be eligible for RTC, a tenant’s yearly household income must be 200% or below of the federal poverty level (FPL)—less than $24,980 for a single adult or $51,500 for a family of four. This means a single New Yorker working full-time and making the $15 minimum wage would not qualify. We are calling for an increase of RTC’s income eligibility level from 200% of the FPL to 400%. Tenants with incomes between 200%-400% of the FPL make up an estimated 31% of tenants in housing court. And while they don’t currently qualify for full legal representation, more than 1/3 of these tenants experience housing hardships that indicate they are at-risk of eviction. Doubling the income threshold would mean almost everyone who is in housing court now would be eligible for a lawyer.
Expand the law to cover more eviction cases: Currently, RTC only covers eviction cases that take place in NYC’s housing courts. While most eviction cases are held there, several hundred are left to higher courts or administrative hearings. Additionally, the current law does not cover appeals. All low-income tenants facing eviction, regardless of their type of case, should have the right to a lawyer.
- Support tenant organizing: We estimate that the majority of tenants don't know about RTC. But in order for RTC to continue to be effective, everyone needs to know about it, understand it, and use it as a tool to fight landlord abuse. Tenant organizing groups can do this work most effectively because they create an environment where tenants feel supported. We must make sure that these groups have the resources they need to ensure that all low-income New Yorkers understand and assert their rights.