Helping Tenants Avoid Evictions
A new study funded by the Public Welfare Foundation found that tenants facing eviction in New York City were able to get significantly better results under an innovative program that uses “court navigators,” who are not lawyers. The program seeks to address a considerable imbalance in legal representation, since, at the time of the study, approximately 90 percent of tenants did not have a lawyer, while the vast majority of landlords did. The study was conducted by researchers from the American Bar Foundation and the National Center for State Courts.
The umbrella program consisted of three pilot projects that used the court navigators – trained and supervised personnel who did not have full, formal legal training – to give one-on-one assistance to unrepresented litigants in New York City’s Housing and Civil Courts.
Among the key findings highlighted in the study:
- No tenants assisted by one group of navigators in the first year of the study experienced eviction from their homes by a marshal. By contrast, in recent years, one formal eviction occurred for about every nine nonpayment cases filed citywide.
- Tenants assisted by another group of navigators were able to assert more than twice as many defenses as litigants who received no assistance. Navigator-assisted tenants were 87 percent more likely than unassisted tenants to have their defenses recognized and addressed by the court. For instance, judges ordered landlords to make needed repairs about 50 percent more often in navigator-assisted cases.
- Litigants who received help from the third group of navigators were 56 percent more likely than unassisted litigants to say they were able to tell their side of the story.
To see an executive summary and the full report, click here.
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The Public Welfare Foundation supports efforts to advance justice and opportunity for people in need. These efforts honor the Foundation’s core values of racial equity, economic well-being, and fundamental fairness for all. The Foundation looks for strategic points where its funds can make a significant difference and improve lives through policy and system reform that results in transformative change. For more information, visit www.publicwelfare.org. Follow the Foundation on Twitter or on Facebook.