By Rachel Kaufman.
San Francisco has become the second city in the U.S. to guarantee renters the right to an attorney when facing an eviction lawsuit in housing court.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the ballot measure Proposition F won with 56 percent of the vote.
That isn’t entirely surprising, adds the San Francisco Weekly: “Organizers managed to get more than double the number of signatures required to get the measure on the ballot, weeks before the filing deadline. The top three mayoral candidates voiced their support … the odds were certainly in Prop F’s favor.”
Many tenants appear in rent court without a lawyer, which gives landlords a clear advantage. The Right to Counsel Coalition of NYC says that half of tenants who are evicted would not be if they had had an attorney. “That means landlords evict tenants because they have power, not because the law supports them,” the coalition writes.
New York City became the first city to provide legal representation in housing court in 2017, in large part thanks to advocacy by the Right to Counsel coalition. A study commissioned by the NYC Bar Association before the change estimated that universal access to representation in housing court would save the city $320 million, since keeping tenants in their homes lowers the number of people entering homeless shelters and lowers healthcare and other costs. It also would avert the replacement of over 3,000 affordable housing units that would lose their status as a result of eviction proceedings. The law was officially passed in August 2017 but will be phased in over the next five years by zip code.