Many renters in San Francisco face eviction as their landlords seek more desirable tenants by evicting their current tenants. Tenants who already have legal representation are in relatively good shape, for a knowledgeable attorney can find many ways to defeat an eviction notice.
Counsel in an eviction case
San Francisco recently adopted an ordinance that guarantees every defendant in an eviction case access to an attorney. San Francisco is now one of 17 cities across the country, plus four states, that have launched right-to-counsel programs of this kind.
Most people are familiar with the guarantee to adequate representation contained in the U.S. Constitution, but that guarantee applies only to criminal cases. Because evictions are civil cases, the right to counsel does not apply.
Tenant advocates are now pushing for more right-to-counsel protections for renters.
Benefits of a right to counsel
Eviction actions can happen almost without notice, and they proceed at breakneck speed. Moreover, the proceedings tend to be opaque and hard to understand. Studies show that most laypeople fighting an eviction action will fare much better with an attorney at their side.
Fighting the landlord
Many landlords will use any of several dishonest tactics to attempt to evict a tenant. In one case reported in a San Francisco newspaper, a tenant was accused of allowing one of his guests to take packages delivered to another tenant. When the tenant discovered the mistake, he made his friend return the packages. Having an attorney to assist in gathering and presenting evidence in such cases can mean the difference between defeating the eviction and moving into the streets.