July 18, 2024 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Los Angeles County Approves Landmark Right to Counsel Ordinance, Ensuring Legal Representation for Tenants Facing Eviction

Board of Supervisors Passes Motion to Provide Universal Access to Legal Representation

By Dolores Quintana 

In a historic vote, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has unanimously passed a motion to establish a Right to Counsel ordinance and ensure universal access to legal representation for tenants through the Stay Housed L.A. initiative. This ordinance would cover residents in unincorporated areas and expand to incorporated areas within Los Angeles County, except those within the city of Los Angeles. The City of Los Angeles has already unanimously passed an ordinance on March 22 that would establish a Right to Counsel program. 

The motion, authored by Supervisors Holly J. Mitchell and Hilda L. Solis, calls for the Los Angeles County Department of Consumer and Business Affairs (DCBA), County Counsel, and other relevant County departments to develop eligibility requirements, sustainable funding sources and an ordinance that will provide no-cost legal representation to eligible tenants facing eviction in unincorporated communities.

“Legal representation is often inaccessible and unaffordable for many working individuals, particularly when confronted with an eviction notice. The Right to Counsel enables us to remove these barriers and assists thousands of residents in preserving their housing,” stated Supervisor Mitchell, who represents the Second District. “This is a crucial component of our strategy to end homelessness and puts us on a path to ensuring universal access to legal representation—a resource that every Angeleno deserves.”

“No one should ever have to face eviction without the opportunity to be legally represented. Having a right to counsel will help level the playing field for tenants in court when dealing with landlords,” emphasized Supervisor Solis, representing the First District. “This is about justice. This is about equity. This is about solidifying Los Angeles County’s guiding principle of serving as a safety net for our most vulnerable.”

According to national data from The Center for American Progress, only around 10 percent of tenants facing eviction in the County currently have legal representation, while 90 percent of landlords do. To address this disparity, the County launched the Stay Housed L.A. program in 2020, utilizing $2 million in Measure H Funds and additional investments from the County and philanthropy. The program offers comprehensive eviction defense services, including short-term rental assistance and legal aid, to prevent residents from becoming homeless. The County’s Department of Consumer and Business Affairs estimates that over 15,000 residents residing in unincorporated communities and cities outside of Los Angeles will seek assistance from Stay Housed L.A. this year alone.

However, the program’s capacity to serve residents is currently overwhelmed by the increasing demand for homelessness prevention services. To ensure that eviction protections provided by Stay Housed L.A. reach more residents regardless of their income, the motion also calls for the County’s Chief Executive Office to allocate $5,000,000 to supplement the program’s budget.

Additionally, the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs will collaborate with cities throughout the County to develop funding models that will facilitate the rapid expansion of Stay Housed L.A.’s services.

“Renters constitute the majority of the population in every part of Los Angeles County. In order to achieve housing justice, we must ensure that renters have the resources to assert their rights when facing the loss of their homes. We commend the Supervisors for their commitment to supporting tenants and the Right to Counsel,” expressed Sasha Harnden, Senior Public Policy Advocate at the Inner-City Law Center and member of the L.A. Right to Counsel Coalition.To access the complete motion, click here.

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