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Six Los Angeles City Council Members Express Support for a Right to Counsel Ordinance

vacancy tax city hall

Six members of the Los Angeles City Council have pledged to support and introduce a Right to Counsel Ordinance. 

While Americans are granted the right to an attorney in federal and state courthouses, the same cannot be said for eviction court. 

However, the six members are hoping to change that.  

What is a Right to Counsel Ordinance? 

A Right to Counsel Ordinance would provide tenants with the right to legal counsel in eviction court. 

In Los Angeles, this idea was introduced in 2018 when the City Council first proposed it. 

Aside from protecting tenants, the council believes there is a financial plus to passing this sort of ordinance. 

In a 2019 report that was presented to the council, the money spent on providing counsel to tenants facing eviction would be offset by the amount saved on not having to provide emergency shelters and housing. 

The report claimed that a nearly $35 million investment can save over $120 million annually. 

When the legislation was first introduced almost five years ago, the city council did not have the funding. However, Measure ULA which was passed in the last election was written for 10% of the money it generates to be used for right-to-counsel purposes. 

Why is the Council in Favor of this? 

The Los Angeles City Council is in favor of this proposal as it could potentially drop evictions. In addition, the disparity between landlords and tenants with counsel in eviction court is huge. 

In 2019, 97% of renters in Los Angeles did not have legal counsel. To compare, landlords had an attorney in 88% of cases in eviction court. 

As a result, the court only sided with the tenant a mere 1% of the time. 

In addition, a Right to Counsel ordinance has been passed in many other cities in the country including New York City. 

New York City has had its program in place since 2017 and saw a 27% drop in evictions. Plus, 84% of renters who received an attorney from the program avoided eviction. 

However, the Right to Counsel program there hasn’t been perfect by any means. Following the expiration of New York’s eviction moratorium, the number of tenants able to get legal counsel dropped to only 35%. 

It’s imperative that if this ordinance is passed in Los Angeles that the number of tenants needing counsel cannot exceed the number of lawyers available in the program. 

We’ll make sure to update you if and when this is proposed in the Los Angeles City Council. 

For the latest news in the Greater Los Angeles area, keep up with BOMA on the Frontline

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