L.A. County launches legal aid program for tenants at risk of eviction

Los Angeles County launched a program on Monday, Sept. 14, to provide free legal services to tenants facing eviction during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As many residents face immeasurable uncertainty and grapple with health, mental health and economic hurdles, we want to provide working families with as much stability and peace of mind as possible,” Supervisor Kathryn Barger said. “By equipping at-risk tenants with the resources they need, Los Angeles County can ensure they stay safe, stay strong, and stay housed.”

Earlier this month, the Board of Supervisors extended a moratorium on evictions through Oct. 31, and each member expressed their strong support for the legal aid program. Dubbed “Stay Housed L.A. County,” the countywide initiative includes a website with information about tenant rights, workshops for residents who need legal assistance and other support, including professional legal support.

The county has partnered with legal aid groups and community-based organizations that will host virtual Know Your Rights workshops about permanent and emergency tenant protections covering evictions and other challenges.

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl said tenants need information to protect themselves.

“L.A. County, along with a number of cities, the state and the federal government, have all passed protections for tenants facing eviction due to the pandemic,” Kuehl said. “These protections only work, however, when people know their rights and can take advantage of the legal protections. That’s the mission of Stay Housed L.A. County: to provide the information and legal representation people need to keep from getting kicked out of their homes while we weather this very challenging time.”

The pandemic has put unprecedented pressure on Los Angeles County residents, many of whom were already struggling to afford housing. According to a UCLA study, about 365,000 L.A. County residents are at risk of evictions due to the COVID-19 economic recession.

The head of the county’s Department of Consumer and Business Affairs said he hoped the initiative would stave off a potential crisis.

“Eviction can be an incredibly devastating event that families never recover from,” said Rafael Carbajal, acting director of the Department of Consumer and Business Affairs. “It’s so much greater than individuals losing their homes.

“Stay Housed L.A. County represents the county’s enhanced efforts to stem an eviction crisis and our commitment to working with community partners to help our tenants preserve healthy and stable households in L.A. County,” he said. “I applaud the (board’s) leadership in this ground-breaking initiative and hope to see our most vulnerable renters take advantage of this most critical public service.”

When tenants have legal representation, a family’s chance of avoiding homelessness due to eviction increases by more than 70%, according to DCBA.

The county’s legal partners in the effort include the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, Bet Tzedek, Community Legal Aid SoCal, Housing Rights Center, Inner City Law Center, Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County, Public Counsel, BASTA Universal! and Eviction Defense Network.

Tenant associations have also joined with the county to provide outreach.

“In these unprecedented times we need unprecedented solutions,” said Shane Murphy Goldsmith, president and CEO of the Liberty Hill Foundation. “Stay Housed L.A. County is a first-of-its-kind collaborative effort between tenant organizers, legal service providers and the county to keep tenants in their homes and off the streets. We are proud to partner with trusted, community-based organizations to reach and educate hundreds of thousands of tenants about their rights and, as well as connect them to legal services to help renters exercise their rights.”

Participating community-based organizations include the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, Communities for a Better Environment, Coalition for Economic Survival, East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, Eastside LEADS, Inquilinos Unidos, Los Angeles Center for Community Law and Action, Los Angeles Community Action Network, Los Angeles Tenants Union and Strategic Actions for a Just Economy.

Leave comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *.