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Low-Income Tenants’ Right to Counsel in Philadelphia

UPDATE: On November 14th, Philadelphia City Council unanimously passed the Legal Representation in Landlord Tenant Court bill, making Philadelphia the fifth city in the nation to pass such historic legislation. According to a press release from the Philadelphia Bar Association, Chancellor Rochelle M. Fedullo praised City Council as well as the collaborative work of the nonprofit members of the Philadelphia Eviction Prevention Project, stating that the legislation will "prevent homelessness and avert the trauma and harm to tenants and their families from being disruptively displaced." 

Philadelphia City Council will be holding a hearing on low-income tenants' Right to Counsel on Tuesday, October 29th at 10 am in Room 400 of City Hall. The related bill, Bill 190386, was introduced by Councilwoman Gym in May, and is currently co-sponsored by Councilmembers Clarke, Greenlee, Henon, Johnson, Jones, and Parker. 

According to a 2017 report by the Reinvestment Fund, approximately 1 in 14 renters in Philadelphia were subjected to an eviction filing each year between 2010 and 2015 (p.3), with evictions disproportionately affecting low-income households and communities of color. Currently, about 90% of tenants facing eviction in Philadelphia do so without an attorney (http://www.phillytenant.org/right-to-counsel/).

Right to Counsel would provide low-income tenants with a free lawyer to support tenants in asserting their rights, locating resources for rental assistance and eviction prevention, and negotiating fair agreements with landlords. Implementing Right to Counsel for tenants would help an estimated 4,000 low-income households and yield a return on investment of nearly $13 for every dollar Philadelphia spends on providing this service, according to a study commissioned by the Philadelphia Bar Association.

Visit phillytenant.org for more information about this topic and the work that area legal service providers have done to support tenants through the Philadelphia Eviction Prevention Project (PEPP). PEPP is a collaboration of Community Legal Services, Clarifi, Legal Clinic for the Disabled, Philadelphia VIP, SeniorLAW Center, and Tenant Union Representative Network (TURN).

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