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What is Right to Counsel?
Right to Counsel (RTC) was signed into law in August 2017 in NYC. It means that tenants who are sued for eviction in housing court and in NYCHA termination of tenancy hearings, and who are income-eligible, have a right to an attorney to defend their case. It doesn’t matter what kind of eviction case they have or what kind of tenant they are (section 8, live in a house, rent stabilized, NYCHA, etc). If a tenant is not income-eligible, they have the right to a one-off legal consultation or advice session.Get Started
Can all tenants get a lawyer right now?
Changing the way our courts work is a big job and the city, the courts and the legal services organizations need time. The courts need to find space, train staff and develop procedures that honor tenants’ integrity. Legal services organizations need to hire and train more staff. It is not possible to go from where we are today to everyone having an attorney tomorrow. Therefore, RTC is being phased in by zip codes over 5 years.
Every year, the city picks zip codes based on factors including the number of evictions, shelter entries and rent stabilized units. If you live in these zip codes, and are income eligible, tenant attorneys have to take your case--you have the RIGHT to an attorney. Attorneys are free. Remember, the zip code model is temporary. By 2022, zip codes will be irrelevant, and everyone who is income eligible will have the right to an attorney.
Right to Counsel Zip Codes:
- Bronx 10457, 10467, 10468, 10462, 10453
- Brooklyn 11216, 11221, 11225, 11226, 11207
- Manhattan 10026, 10027, 10025, 10031, 10029, 10034
- Queens 11433, 11434, 11373, 11385, 11691
- Staten Island 10302, 10303, 10314, 10310
How do I find out if I’m income eligible?
You have a right to an attorney if your income is at or below 200% of the poverty line. This is about $24,000 for a single person and about $50,000 for a family of 4. There are many factors that go into determining income eligibility—talk to an attorney to find out if you are eligible. Also, even if you are over income, you may still be able to get an attorney from a legal services program with different eligibility requirements.Get Started
Can I get a lawyer no matter what my immigration status?
YES, YOU CAN! The Right to Counsel law does not discriminate based on immigration status — the law applies equally to people of all immigration and citizenship statuses.Get Started
Are you a member of DC37?
If so, then your union provides free legal services. There are no income or geographic restrictions for NYC tenants. Call (212) 815-1111 to find out more and schedule an appointment.Get Started
I’m not in court for an eviction but I want to sue my landlord for repairs, do I have the right to an attorney?
You don’t. You still may be able to get an attorney but this law doesn’t cover cases brought by tenants. There are a lot of things you can do to demand repairs without going to court or in addition to having a court case.
- Form a tenants’ association
- Write a letter to your landlord
- Engage the media
- Go on rent strike
- File for a rent reduction
There are so many things you can do! Don’t limit your action to court. Contact your local tenant organizing group to find out more!
If you are interested in suing your landlord for repairs, get more information about HP Actions:Get Started