by Mireya Navarro
At the information table at Housing Court in the Bronx, tenant after tenant approached, often anxious and often in a familiar predicament — they owed their landlords rent and needed more time to pay it. Some had received eviction papers and did not know what to do.
Ana Cruz, a mother of three who said she owed $3,600 on her one-bedroom apartment because her public benefits had been cut, knew a little more.
“I feel I need a lawyer,” she said.
Most low-income tenants in New York face their landlords’ lawyers without lawyers of their own. Critics have long complained that without counsel, tenants are all but set up to lose, and often do. With the city stepping up efforts to help tenants remain in rent-regulated apartments, as part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s affordable housing strategy, the lack of counsel in Housing Court is drawing increased attention from City Hall and the court system.
The mayor has doubled spending for legal aid to fight evictions to more than $13 million a year; a bill pending in the City Council would require the city to spend more than $100 million. The legislation is part of a national campaign by elected officials, legal scholars and tenant advocates to establish a right to counsel in civil actions that impact basic needs like housing. The Sixth Amendment guarantees a right to counsel in criminal cases, but the Constitution does not provide a similar right in civil cases.
'via Blog this'