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New York City Council approves right to counsel measure for eviction proceedings

Legal representation is critical for tenants involved in disputes with their landlords. Landlords are typically more or less sophisticated in their understanding of their rights under the law. It is their business to understand their rights and to exercise them to protect their interests. Tenants, on the other hand, often don’t begin to really understand their legal rights until something goes wrong and they are forced to take action to protect their interests.

Securing legal representation can make a significant difference in the outcome of landlord-tenant disputes. The ability to work with an attorney in these disputes is important enough that the New York City Council recently passed legislation that guarantees legal representation to low-income tenants facing eviction. This is the first measure of its kind nationwide. 

The measure would begin to be implemented this fall, but would be phased in over a five year period. The ability of low-income tenants to work with legal counsel in eviction proceedings is expected to significantly decrease the number of evictions granted in housing court. All too often, landlords drag tenants into court seeking eviction on shaky grounds. Often, they are able to obtain eviction because tenants are not aware of their rights and how to defend themselves.

Low income tenants assigned legal counsel in eviction proceedings aren’t necessarily always going to be working with an attorney who had a great deal of experienced in such disputes, but the ability to work with any legal counsel is certainly going to be beneficial for tenants. For those who are able to secure counsel with extensive experience handling landlord-tenant disputes, legal representation is that much more effective.