In 2018 alone, more than 40,000 households in Massachusetts were served with eviction papers, and over 92% of these tenants were unrepresented. Women, families of color, and households with children disproportionately face eviction, and are forced to fight it on their own. The stakes are high and without a lawyer, many tenants do not know how to protect themselves in and out of the courtroom. From uprooting neighborhoods, pushing families into homelessness, and more, the impact of eviction can be swift, traumatic, and devastating.
As a member of the Massachusetts Right to Counsel Coalition, we believe that by establishing a right to counsel in eviction cases, we can ensure a fairer, more balanced process, prevent homelessness, displacement, unjust evictions, and create a path to housing stability.
Where Are We Now
In November, the Right to Counsel Coalition submitted a consolidated proposal, guided by these principles, that calls for:
- providing an attorney for low-income tenants facing eviction in court and certain low-income owner-occupants of 1 or 2 -family homes seeking possession of their own and only home;
- building the capacity of organizations to prevent evictions and homelessness, such as proactive education, housing stabilization assistance, and “upstream” support prior to court.
The Judiciary Committee is currently reviewing bills, including this consolidated bill. It must report all the bills out of the committee by next Wednesday, February 5th, or seek an extension of further time to consider the bill.
What You Can Do
Please call, write, or email your Senator and Representative before February 5th and urge them to contact the co-chairs of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary, Senator Jamie Eldridge and Representative Claire Cronin, and urge them to give the right to counsel bill a favorable report.
One of the most important ways to fight homelessness is to prevent evictions. Over 92% of tenants facing eviction in court have no representation. Housing stability is one of the most pressing issues that our Commonwealth is facing. Over 120 organizations are part of a broad-based Right to Counsel Coalition. Please urge Judiciary Chair Cronin and Chair Eldridge to report a right to counsel bill out of the Judiciary Committee favorably. Now is the time. We can prevent the trauma that eviction is causing people in our community. Thank you.
If your Senator or Representative co-sponsored one of the Right to Counsel bills, please thank them and let them know we need their help to advance this bill. You can see if they co-sponsored one of the bills here!
Thank you for supporting low-income and unrepresented tenants and taking vital action to expand access to justice!
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