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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?
As of July 2021, Right to Counsel is fully implemented. That means that any income eligible tenant facing an eviction in NYC has the right to an attorney.
Unfortunately, thousands of eligible tenants are not getting the attorney they are entitled to. It’s outrageous.
In early 2022, after years of cases being on pause thanks to the COVID eviction protections the tenant movement won, the courts began to move old and new cases at a rate that outpaced the number of lawyers. At the same time, legal services orgs (like most sectors), are experiencing an unprecedented labor shortage---there are less RTC attorneys than before the pandemic and not enough to meet the pace the courts have set. Instead of putting cases on pause, the courts are moving thousands of cases forward. Read more about why this is happening.
__If you don’t get an RTC attorney on your first court date, you have the right to ask the judge to adjourn your case until you get one. __
You can also contact the Office of Civil Justice, the city agency that oversees RTC, who is responsible for making sure that all RTC eligible tenants get an attorney. You can reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org or T: 929-221-7327 C: 917-624-0703.
We’ve been working hard to win solutions to this crisis. Learn more about our Defend RTC campaign and get involved today!Get Started
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 $30,000 for a single person and about $62,000 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!
While the law doesn’t currently cover cases where tenants sue their landlords, the Right to Counsel NYC Coalition is working on legislation that would not only cover all tenants in eviction cases regardless of income but also include cases where tenants want to sue their landlord for repairs or harassment.
If you are interested in suing your landlord for repairs, get more information about HP Actions:Get Started