Earlier this month, the New Orleans City Council unanimously passed a Right to Counsel ordinance. The passage of this legislation creates a permanent framework for the city’s eviction defense program, which the Council previously funded with $2 million for 2022. Here’s a breakdown of what this means for you!
What is Right To Counsel?
Simply put, it is the RIGHT of an individual (or household) facing eviction to receive COUNSEL from a legal representative or lawyer so that they do not have to walk into eviction court alone. Studies conducted by the Jane Place Neighborhood Sustainability Initiative (JPNSI) found that households who had representation in eviction court were 4.5 times less likely to be evicted. With the COVID-19 pandemic, Hurricane Ida, and rampant inflation causing financial hardships for many, this RTC program couldn’t have come at a more pivotal time.
How it works
So what does this mean for the public? Generally speaking, anyone facing eviction in New Orleans should have access to free legal representation when appearing in court, as stated in Article V of Chapter 50 of the Code of the City of New Orleans.
“There is hereby created a Tenant Eviction Assistance Program to provide legal counsel as a matter of right to residential tenants facing eviction proceedings within the City of New Orleans and to provide housing-related advocacy for tenants in New Orleans.”
The program will be administered by the City’s Office of Community Development, which is currently contracting with Southeast Louisiana Legal Services (SLLS) to provide the attorneys and support staff. The Louisiana Fair Housing Action Center (LaFHAC) and JPNSI will also be part of the program.
Who is eligible
Any renter who lives in New Orleans is eligible. There are no additional financial, citizenship, or other requirements for an individual to be eligible for eviction assistance. What counts as an eviction?
Landlords are required to distribute information about tenant’s rights when facing eviction when they issue a notice to vacate. Housing subsidy providers like the Housing Authority are also required to distribute this information alongside a notice of subsidy change or termination, and the court is required to provide it when sending out notice of an eviction court date.
How do I find assistance?
If you or someone you know is facing eviction or at risk of losing a voucher or other housing subsidy, call Southeast Louisiana Legal Services’ New Orleans office at (877) 521-6242.