Imagine facing off alone against a team of lawyers trying to evict you from your home in one of the most complicated legal systems in the world. That describes the unfair housing court
system that we are battling to correct.
When NYC landlords sue to evict tenants, they almost always have a lawyer; 7 out of 10 times the resident does not – leaving them 75% more likely to be evicted and without help to face the frighteningly real possibility of homelessness.
We testified to the NYC Council to encourage the passage of Intro 214-A, which would provide attorneys to all lower-income people facing eviction.
We're already fighting for housing justice through our eviction prevention program - Project Home - and court navigators, who help participants stay in their homes 96% of the time. Now we're taking the fight to city hall by partnering with the Right to Counsel NYC Coalition. Read why the New York Times says we must pass Intro 214-A, then tell the mayor you agree by signing this petition!
Testimony in Support of Intro 214-A
Ernest Martinez, University Settlement Court Navigator
September, 26t 2016
Hello, my name is Ernest Martinez, and I am a Housing Court Navigator in Brooklyn Housing Court, through University Settlement. University Settlement is the first, and oldest, settlement house in the country. We are a comprehensive community based organization that provides holistic, all-inclusive, programming to many members of the communities we serve through a variety of programs aimed at the needs of very young children to seniors, and all age groups in between.
As a Housing Court Navigator my main role is to provide non-attorney, 1-on-1 support, to tenants without legal representation throughout the course of their housing court case. I can provide unrepresented tenants with assistance in preparing their paper work, completing court forms, providing legal information accessible through the court wide access to justice system, go through stipulations before they sign, and respond to factual questions asked by judges and other court staff. In addition to those services, an important task I do is providing emotional support to tenants in the extremely distressing and hard to navigate setting which is Brooklyn Housing court. Because I am in Brooklyn Housing court daily I see first-hand the unequal playing field in which unrepresented tenants must go through in their housing court proceedings. I have witnessed continuous intimidation tactics, tactics of confusion, mis-representation of facts, harassment, and the sharing of misleading information that landlord attorneys bring upon unrepresented tenants. I have noticed the tenants that face the brunt of those procedures are tenants that live in rent stabilized apartments, especially in rapidly gentrifying areas.
If each tenant had the representation of a qualified attorney it would prevent unfair treatment, court case driven trauma, and detrimental effects on whole families. The right to counsel would vindicate the right for due process, and fundamental fairness in the lopsided tenant-landlord proceedings that happen daily throughout New York City.
University Settlement became a coalition member of the Right To Counsel Coalition in support of preserving New York City communities in this climate of economic inequality that they face. We are committed to preserving affordable housing through addressing problems such as unfair and illegal evictions. The passing and funding of Intro 214A by the end of the year would do just that. Thank you.