Court officials urged to improve tenants' Right to Counsel

By Sarina Trangle

Lawmakers who shepherded through City Hall legislation that lays the groundwork for providing low-income tenants facing an eviction with legal representation by 2022 are urging the court system to take several steps to ease the transition.

In a mid-March memo, City Council members Mark Levine and Vanessa Gibson urged the state's chief judge to ensure courts are physically configured so eligible tenants and lawyers can convene and to do a better job of informing individuals about their right to representation.

"There are challenges particularly in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Staten Island on functional, confidential space for attorneys to meet with clients. It's also really important that tenants understand they have this right before they show up for their court hearing," Levine said. "Sometimes landlord attorneys work the line outside of housing court, which can be very long in the morning, even over an hour. … The tenant might, again, out of fear and desperation, sign a very unfavorable document."

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