Legal Support for Renters
Renters have legal protections, but few can access those protections when faced with eviction because most don’t have the means to obtain legal representation. By addressing this representation gap, Legal Support for Renters policies help people at risk of eviction remain safe in their homes and avoid homelessness, keep their records free from evictions, and reduce rent debt.
The Eviction Challenge
- Nearly half of all renter households in the United States are cost-burdened, meaning they pay more than 30% of their income on housing. This number only increased with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic; in August 2020 an estimated 30-40 million Americans were at risk of eviction.
- When evictions take place, 81% of landlords have legal representation while only 3% of tenants have representation.
- Homelessness or unstable housing is associated with poorer health outcomes such as depression, stress-related illness, substance use disorder, and increased emergency department use.
- Homelessness is associated with domestic violence and criminal behavior — including assault and robbery — as well as homeless people being a victim of assaults.
- Low-income people, people of color, women, and families with children are most at risk of eviction and subsequent exposure to violence.
A Healthy Solution: Legal Support for Renters
- Reduces Evictions — Cities that have legal support for renters in the form of representation have seen eviction filings drop by as much as 30% — and more than 80% of people who obtained legal support were able to remain safe in their homes.
- Reduces Homelessness — A recent study by the University of Tulsa College of Law found that people with representation were four times more likely to avoid homelessness.
- Promotes Better Health — Families, especially children, live healthier and more stable lives when they can stay in their homes and within their school districts. Eviction is linked to serious negative physical and mental health outcomes, including depression and suicidal thoughts.
The state of legal support for renters policies in big US cities
14 out of 75 cities received a medal for legal support for renters policies, including two golds, six silver, and six bronze.
Measuring cities' Legal Support for Renters policies
|How will we award legal support for renters medals?||Bronze Medal||Silver Medal||Gold Medal|
|Policy covers any tenant with at least 1 child making no more than 125% of the federal poverty level.|
|Policy includes limited coverage.**|
|Policy covers any tenant making no more than 200% of the poverty level OR policy provides a flexible standard of indigence encouraging broad applicability and vests providers with discretion to determine indigence.|
|Policy includes both limited coverage and enhanced coverage.***|
|Policy requires evaluation.|
|Policy covers all tenants.|
|Policy requires evaluation and reporting.|
* Eligible tenants varies by medal.
- Bronze: The policy must cover any tenant with at least one child making no more than 125% of the federal poverty level.
- Silver: The policy must cover any tenant making no more than 200% of the federal poverty level OR the policy provides a flexible standard of indigence encouraging broad applicability and vests providers with discretion to determine indigence.
- Gold: the policy must cover all tenants.