Unlike in criminal proceedings, tenants facing eviction do not have a guaranteed right to counsel. As recently as 2013, 99 percent of landlords in New York City house court were represented, compared to just one percent of tenants. Similarly, residents of New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) buildings in administrative proceedings that can lead to eviction rarely enjoy the benefits of legal assistance. Access to legal services in these critically important proceedings helps to level the playing field between landlords and tenants while allowing more New Yorkers to remain in their homes.
The Speaker’s efforts to expand access to legal services following the creation of the Civil Justice Coordinator resulted in the percentage of represented tenants rising to 27 percent, while residential evictions dropped by nearly a quarter.
Introduction 214-B, sponsored by Council Members Mark Levine and Vanessa Gibson, would require the Civil Justice Coordinator to establish programs to provide all tenants facing eviction with access to legal services within five years. Low-income individuals with eviction cases in housing court would have full legal representation while all others would receive brief legal assistance. By October 2017, the Coordinator would also establish and begin implementing a program to provide legal services to all NYCHA tenants in administrative proceedings to terminate their tenancy.