DeLauro Introduces Eviction Prevention Act
WASHINGTON, DC — (December 4, 2019) Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-03) today introduced the Eviction Prevention Act, legislation that would help low-income people get access to legal counsel if they are being evicted. In 2016, landlords filed an average of four evictions per minute, totaling nearly 2.3 million. At the same time, just 10 percent of tenants have legal representation in evictions lawsuits, compared to an estimated 90 percent of landlords. Research has shown that providing tenants with legal representation drastically increases their ability to stay in their home, even if only temporarily so they have time to move.
“Too often in our country, poverty is criminalized,” said Congresswoman DeLauro. “Fighting an eviction without a lawyer is a rigged game, with far too many wrongful or disputed evictions. The federal government needs to step up to make sure that is never the case. Families are struggling to keep up with the rising costs of healthcare, child care, education, and housing. As rents skyrocket and incomes flatline, the affordable housing crisis has become an eviction crisis. Working people and their families deserve a safety net that can help keep them in their home, and that is exactly what the Eviction Prevention Act aims to do.”
"Equal justice under law is a right, not a privilege, and Representative DeLauro's bill will help renters facing wrongful eviction get the justice they deserve,” said Martha Bergmark, executive director of Voices for Civil Justice. “Few tenants have legal help in eviction court, while most landlords do. The result is injustice and a worsening homelessness crisis facing families. We need a national solution to ensure justice is done.”
“A right to counsel for tenants facing eviction helps prevent wrongful evictions, correct the massive imbalance of power between landlords and tenants, and avoid the devastating consequences of eviction on individuals, families, and communities,” said John Pollock, Coordinator of the National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel. “With five cities having recognized such a right in the past three years, the right to counsel movement is surging at the state and local level. Representative DeLauro’s bill recognizes this growth and gives the federal government a key role through providing financial support to such expansion efforts.”
The Eviction Prevention Act would allow the United States Attorney General (AG) to authorize $125 million in grants to states, counties, and cities to provide people with representation by an attorney in civil actions related to eviction if their income is lower than 125% of the Federal Poverty Level. Cities and states that have established a right to counsel would receive preference for additional funding. The bill would also allow the AG to collect evidence of eviction data, and mandates a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report to Congress on the cost savings from providing representation by an attorney to renters in housing cases.
Cosponsors of the Eviction Prevention Act include: Congressman Raúl Grijalva (AZ-03), Congressman Dwight Evans (PA-03), Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-AL), Congressman Donald Payne, Jr. (NJ-10), Congressman Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18).