Effects of Eviction
You may ask yourself, why is there such a concern about evictions. Scholars have linked eviction as the “key driver of housing instability, homelessness, and poverty.” Tenants who are evicted from their residences find it more challenging to find safe and affordable housing in the future. Further, eviction filings negatively impact tenants’ credit and public reports and result in family instability. They are especially damaging to children’s health and educational development. Evictions have “detrimental consequences for children, families and neighborhoods as it disrupts social ties, interrupts peer networks and generates a loss of community.”
In the District of Columbia, the eviction crisis is acute. Before the pandemic, many low-income families were at high risk for eviction. Of the District’s 163,000 renters, almost half spent more than 30 percent of their income on rent. Further, many evictions are filed against tenants who reside in Wards 7 and 8, which are communities of color. Since the enactment of the moratorium in March, landlords were prohibited from filing any eviction complaints. However, it is expected that “39,000 evictions are in line to be filed in DC Superior Court as soon the eviction moratorium lifts” at the end of January 2021.
How You Can Help
In response to the pending eviction tidal wave, legal services providers, Access to Justice Commissions, and bar associations nationwide have developed tools and training to assist attorneys, non-barred attorneys, and law students who are interested in working on eviction cases. As a volunteer, you can litigate eviction cases in court, educate communities about evictions and the eviction process in your jurisdiction, and advocate locally or nationally for policies such as extending the eviction moratorium or creating robust rental funding assistance programs. Many of these organizations will provide free training, mentorship with a seasoned housing law practitioner, and in some instances, malpractice insurance for barred attorneys.
In the District of Columbia, the DC Bar Pro Bono Center hosts training sessions throughout the year for attorneys and paralegals who wish to undertake pro bono assignments from the Center or other area legal services providers. Similarly, the American Bar Association’s Center for Pro Bono has a guide for attorneys, law graduates, and law students that provides information about volunteer opportunities nationwide.