The need for a fully funded, Codified Civil Right to Counsel is demonstrated through the testimonies of tenants who have had to navigate the eviction process.
“So they said that since we are low income and had no money, it was possible that we could qualify for a free attorney, but they said they didn’t have one. It was uncertain that they would be able to provide one. I was worried. On one side we were happy because there was a chance. But thank god, we came back and they told us, yes, we would have an attorney.”
“When the time comes and you go through a situation that is so difficult, it would be so much better to know that we can come to the table with an attorney’s help.”
Otilia May’s experience shows the value in having a fully funded program, and how much more secure tenants feel in exercising their rights and contesting eviction when they know they have the support of a lawyer.
“Yes, so we had 120 days to move out. The 120 day notice was only taped to our doors. It wasn’t really something that we had gotten information for. We got no knock on the door or phone call. Some people even lost their notice because it fell off, and had no idea what was going on… thank god that we already had some help from lawyers.”
“Had we not had a lawyer, and they told us to leave tomorrow, we would have left tomorrow. But because we had an attorney, we could stay. Having an attorney was a big difference. They helped me to apply for an additional year, and it was extended for another 120 days.”
Rosalina’s experience demonstrates how legal assistants can keep tenants in their homes who could otherwise be forced out under false pretenses by their landlord. Having a lawyer to help navigate the ambiguity and difficulty of the eviction system helps correct the power imbalance between landlord and tenant and lets tenants access their rights.
“So the sheriff told me, be careful. There’s something wrong here. You’d better open your eyes and hurry up. It might be too late for you. He was honest. I said really? And I went to go get help.”
“When we got the unlawful detainer. Everyone was saying it’s too late now. And it was hard to find legal representation. I paid to a person like 400 for a motion. I went to Santa Monica, and paid to this guy to do a motion. Hector. They were outside the court. I didn’t know what to do and he said don’t worry we can help you. 450? I didn’t know anything. I was nervous.”
“I remember Anthony, who helped us at the end, he was only able to negotiate more time.”
Rolando’s experience illustrates how crucial it is to have a counsel at the earliest stages of an eviction proceeding, and how important making sure a program is well funded and well publicized is to keep tenants informed of their rights. Because Rolando didn’t know he needed a lawyer until it was too late, he was forced out of his home even though the eviction was made under what even the Sheriff serving the Unlawful Detainer said were false pretenses. A fully funded, codified Civil Right to Counsel will also prevent those facing eviction from falling prey to scams like those perpetrated by Hector.