When facing the loss of their home in housing court, legal representation makes a critical difference. Nearly half of all landlords have attorneys, while most of the other half are represented by hired professional agents or are experienced in eviction litigation. The fast eviction process denies people time to find legal help, financial resources, or other housing. In some surveys, fewer than 10% of tenants facing eviction have attorneys by their side when their eviction cases are heard in court.
With an attorney, tenants are more likely to be able to stay in their home, and much more likely to avoid a forced departure from their home by sheriff deputies. Without legal representation tenants are more likely to be evicted which makes it hard to find new stable, safe housing. Being evicted also makes tenants vulnerable to a predatory market and homelessness, which has increased across the Twin Cities and Minnesota.
Lawyers inform renters about the laws that apply and potential defenses to eviction cases. New laws in place since the COVID-19 pandemic make it even more important for renters to have representation navigating the legal system. Legal procedure can be complicated and burdensome. Lawyers help get documents filed and served, and help renters access court hearings. Lawyers help renters connect with emergency resources, including financial assistance, safety resources, and housing resources. And lawyers help make sure renters can participate in their case, including arranging for language interpretation or other accessibility accommodations that a renter might need.
Even for cases that end in the tenant moving out, attorneys can still help mitigate harm. For example, attorneys can help get more move-out time (which reduces the risk for homelessness) and prevent an eviction from being formally entered (which increases future housing options).