Housing Court: Who is Representing Tenants?

The Surreal Estate

Eviction Notice

Housing court — the epitome of inequality.

Two weeks ago, the New York Times published an article detailing the imbalance of power within housing court. According to the article, millions of Americans face eviction each year.  Of those cases, 90 percent of landlords have legal representation while 90 percent of tenants do not.  Without proper legal training, most tenants cannot win against attorneys and are, in turn, evicted from their homes.

How do we rectify the unprecedented number of evictions and, as a result, lessen the growing problem homelessness in our city? One solution, according to Matthew Desmond, could be “publicly funded legal services for low-income families in housing court.”

In 1963, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled on the landmark case Gideon v. Wainwright, which requires the defendants in criminal cases to have legal representation. The court judges insisted that without legal representation, the hearing would be unfair. Eighteen…

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