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Tenants’ right-to-counsel bill one step closer to governor’s door

On Behalf of | Jun 18, 2021 | Landlord/Tenant Matters

In June 2020, Governor John Carney modified the State of Emergency to permit residential eviction if “necessary in the interest of justice.”  In the minds of at least one legislator, the decision has weighted the legal relationship in favor of landlords.

Legislation proposed by state Sen. Bryan Townsend (D-11) has passed the Delaware Senate that would extend the right to legal to counsel to qualified residents against whom landlords have initiated summary process.

Costs to communities underlie extension to qualified residents

Under the bill, SB 101, the right extends only to residents who meet specific criteria: household incomes below 200% of the federal poverty line. In addition, landlords may commence eviction only if the tenant owes more than $500 or one month’s rent, whichever is greater.

The Attorney General would appoint a Coordinator to contract with legal services providers. If the bill becomes law, Delaware will join three other states that have codified a right to counsel for eviction proceedings.

A legal concept gaining momentum throughout the United States, the right-to-counsel for those subject to eviction, a civil proceeding, may seem extraordinary. The description certainly applies to these times, however.

Eviction carries economic costs to communities, such as shelter, medical and foster care, and education, as well as emotional costs to residents and their families. Yet, Delaware has consistently ranked among one of the more tenant-friendly states over the past several years.

Prospect of new legal landscape impacts landlords  

Landlords and tenants can sometimes share a tenuous legal relationship. Even the most amicable eviction process can exasperate tenants and landlords. Circumstances for both parties can fluctuate ─ emotionally and financially.

New approaches and interpretations may accompany a new legal right in the upcoming months. Landlords may find a firm with experience in representing their interests in these extraordinary times beneficial.