Thursday, December 18, 2014

Bill would give lawyers to many tenants in Housing Court

First in the nation - if it passes.  This bill builds on a concept presented earlier by NYS Chief Justice Jonathan Lippman.

Council Member Mark Levine has proposed a bill to pay for lawyers in housing court for low-income tenants. 

Currently, 90% of tenants in  Housing Court have no lawyer, while 90% of landlords have one.  Guess who wins.

Ensuring legal representation for what can be a life-changing court decision is crucial, says Council Member Levine.  It makes sense morally and economically:

  • Many families are made homeless by court eviction.
  • Homelessness costs the City an enormous amount (over  $3,000/month for shelter). That doesn't count the obvious costs to those suffering homelessness, including extra travel to get the kids to their regular school and to get to work, mental and physical ailments requiring treatment, and more. 
  • Landlords whose business plan includes trying to evict many tenants at once  may well be dissuaded when they know that the tenants will be represented. 
So paying $2000 for a private lawyer could save the City many thousands of dollars. And it's the right thing to do. 

It would cover those whose incomes do not exceed 125% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). These are the 2014 figures: 
For a family of 1, 125% of the FPL is $14,587.50
For a family of 2, 125% of the FPL is $19,662.50
For a family of 3, 125% of the FPL is $24,737.50
For a family of 4, 125% of the FPL is $34,887.50
About 60% of tenants in Housing Court are within those income levels according to C.M. Levine.

NY Times:  Push to Provide Lawyers in New York City Housing Court Gains Momentum, by Mireya Navarro, Dec. 16, 2014

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