De Novo Joins Coalition for Right to Counsel in Eviction Cases


De Novo has joined the Massachusetts Right to Counsel Coalition in support of new legislation to ensure the right to counsel for low income people in eviction proceedings.

The organization joins a broad coalition of municipal leaders, housing advocates, and community groups seeking to ensure that low income people in Massachusetts have access to resources and assistance that will prevent an eviction and stabilize their housing.

An Act to ensure right to counsel in eviction proceedings (S. 913 and H. 3456) filed by Senator Sal DiDomenico and Rep. Chynah Tyler respectively, would provide any low-income tenant facing eviction with a court-appointed attorney for representation. More than 40,000 households in Massachusetts were served with eviction filings in 2018. Landlords were represented by counsel in 70 percent of those cases while tenants were represented by counsel in only 8 percent of cases. An Act establishing a right to counsel in certain eviction cases (H.1537), filed by Rep. Dave Rogers and Rep. Michael Day, contains similar protections for low-income tenants.

The three right to counsel bills have been refiled for the 2019-20 Session and assigned to the Joint Committee on the Judiciary with hearings held on July 16, 2019. These bills were drafted several years ago. Since that time, New York City and others have passed similar legislation. Members of the Massachusetts Right to Counsel Coalition have reviewed these bills, considered lessons learned in Massachusetts and NYC, and proposes drawing together provisions from each of the three bills to ensure justice in evictions.

You can read specific recommendations in the Massachusetts Right to Counsel Coalition’s proposal here.

Amanda Becker