ACLU Finds the Right to Counsel Helps Tenants Avoid Evictions

Date Published: 
June 15th, 2022

The ACLU, in partnership with the National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel, recently released a research brief on how access to legal counsel can impact tenants facing eviction proceedings. The authors begin by highlighting several alarming trends from national eviction data released in 2020. One out of every 25 renters were threatened with eviction every year, and one in 40 was evicted. The harms of eviction disproportionately affected renters of color and Latinx people; according to the study, despite only making up 19.9% of all adult renters in the nation, black renters accounted for 32.7% of all eviction filing defendants.

The study posits that providing tenants with the right to counsel during eviction proceedings is one possible solution to address these outcomes. The ACLU study identified and reviewed four key areas of eviction impact: economic, childhood, health, and civic. The authors then examined various pilot programs to represent tenants in housing court in California, Massachusetts, Ohio, Minnesota, New York, and Virginia.

The findings show that by providing legal representation to tenants facing eviction, tenants generally fared better in proceedings. Tenants with representation “were far less likely to receive an eviction judgement and less likely to suffer the collateral consequences of eviction records.” The study concludes with recommendations for state and local governments to implement the right to counsel in their jurisdictions, following the lead of a growing number of cities.


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