Tenant Right to Counsel

What is Tenant Right to Counsel?

Since EDC’s founding in 1996, we have been a national leader in the field of innovative solutions to the housing crisis. Eviction Defense Collaborative was the first organization in the country to provide legal assistance to clients facing an eviction and rental assistance as part of a coordinated, single agency anti-displacement strategy. EDC was also one of the first housing organizations to combine services for shelter clients, tenants in publicly owned housing, and tenants in privately owned housing in one organization, breaking traditional silos in the housing movement, to build a broad, intersectional approach to regional housing stability.

Now in 2019, EDC is again leading the nation in our approach to direct services to combat the housing crisis. In November of 2018, San Francisco voters passed Prop F, Tenant Right to Counsel, which guaranteed any tenant right to counsel in an eviction matter. Traditionally, landlords have been represented by attorneys at a rate of 6 to 1 as compared to the number of tenants who have been represented by counsel, and studies have shown that having an attorney in an eviction case increases a family’s chance of avoiding homelessness by over 70%. Universal right to counsel in eviction is a proven and cost-effective way of keeping people housed. EDC has been awarded the Lead Agency role in designing and implementing San Francisco Right to Counsel.

FAQs for Tenant Right to Counsel

What is Tenant Right to Counsel – Prop F

Proposition F was approved by San Francisco voters in June 2018, services start on July 11, 2019. Under the “No Eviction without Representation Act” tenants who have received an eviction notice or been served with an unlawful detainer (eviction) lawsuit and, are not living with their landlord, have a right to a free attorney. The attorney will provide full scope representation, which means the attorney provides representation throughout all stages of the case.

What is the Tenant Right to Counsel Program?

The “No Eviction without Representation Act” requires that all eligible residential tenants receive free legal representation. The City of San Francisco is funding several non-profit organizations to work together in providing those services as the Tenant Right to Counsel program (TRC).

Can tenants get a lawyer right now?

Not every tenant is eligible to receive free full scope representation, but all tenants are eligible for some legal assistance. To find out what services are available to you please go to the Eviction Defense Collaborative during our drop-in hours.

A friend of mine is an attorney, will the City pay him/her to represent me?

The free representation offered by the City of San Francisco is only provided by several non-profit organizations working together in providing those services, collectively forming the Tenant Right to Counsel (TRC) program. The City will not pay for attorneys who are not part of the TRC program.

Can I choose the attorney and the non-profit that will represent me?

Each tenant who is eligible for a free attorney will go through an intake process and be assigned to an appropriate non-profit legal services organization. Because of the high demand for services tenants will not be able to choose their attorney. If a tenant does not like the free attorney assigned to them, the tenant will need to hire an attorney or represent themselves.

Does my immigration status impact my ability to access an attorney?

No it does not. If your landlord is evicting you or threatening to evict you please go to the EDC. The staff at EDC will assist you. If you have not received an eviction notice, EDC will refer you to a Tenant Counseling Organization.

I’m not in court for an eviction, but I want to sue my landlord for repairs. Do I have a right to an attorney?

You do not have a right to an attorney, but you do have a right to repairs. Please contact any of these Tenant Counseling Organizations for assistance.

Will all eligible tenants receive full scope legal representation?

There may be times when attorneys are not available to provide full scope representation (representation from the beginning of the case through trial). In those situations a tenant will receive legal assistance with responding to the unlawful detainer (eviction) lawsuit and will have an attorney for their mandatory settlement conference the week before trial.

I got a notice asking me to leave; where do I go?

Come to EDC! We can connect you to your lawyer once you have a notice, even if the landlord hasn’t filed an eviction case against you in court.

The Sheriff posted a Notice to Vacate on my door; where do I?

Come to EDC! We can guide you.

Who are these lawyers I’m being connected to?

EDC is working with all of the free legal services providers to tenants in San Francisco. They are:

  • AIDS Legal Referral Panel (ALRP)
  • Asian Law Caucus (ALC)
  • Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach (APILO)
  • Bay Area Legal Aid (BayLegal)
  • Eviction Defense Collaborative (EDC)
  • Homeless Advocacy Project (HAP)
  • Justice & Diversity Center of the Bar Association of San Francisco (JDC)
  • Legal Assistance for the Elderly (LAE)
  • Open Door Legal (ODL)
  • Tenderloin Housing Clinic (THC)
Why not simply go to the LSO listed above?

You can, but they may not have capacity. In which case you’re going to have to come to EDC in order for EDC to find the agency that has the capacity to take you on as a client. Also, EDC has an in-house Rental Assistance Program (aka RADCo) that may be able to provide you with rental assistance if that’s what you need to stay in your home.

What if I can’t get to my lawyer before my deadline to file a response with the Court?

EDC will assist you in preparing an emergency response to ensure you do not lose by default (i.e. forfeit the match so to speak). This will buy you enough time to get to your lawyer so they may help you with a more detailed response.

What if none of those agencies has capacity to take me on?

Good news! An EDC attorney will help you with filing an initial response to your landlord’s eviction complaint. The attorney will also provide you with an overview of the eviction process. You may be put on a waitlist for five days until an attorney becomes available. You will be given priority once capacity opens up. Agencies’ capacities can change on a daily basis.

In the unlikely event that we are unable to pair you with an attorney to represent you through trial, EDC will make sure that an attorney is available in court the day of your Mandatory Settlement Conference a week before your trial to help you negotiate a resolution of the case with your landlord.