Posts tagged access to justice
Access to Justice Presentation

Today, I have the opportunity to speak at the Kentucky Bar Association's New Lawyer Program about access to justice issues in the Commonwealth. This blog post contains links to information and materials that I referenced in that talk. It probably won't make sense outside of my talk, but here you go...

Existing Landscape for New Lawyers: this is a non-exhaustive list of legal aid organizations, nonprofit law firms, lawyer referral services, government agencies, legal associations and membership organizations, and allied organizations/nonprofits currently working across multiple issues and across the Commonwealth. 

Let's Start a Law Firm: the short-run podcast I did with Annie O'Connell about how a law firm

Link to Access to Justice Panel event hosted by the American Constitution Society on February 1, 2018

My Fake Law School Commencement Address

All Your Worth: The Ultimate Lifetime Money Plan by Elizabeth Warren and Amelia Warren Tyagi

You Need a Budget software

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond

Protecting Renters Facing Foreclosure in Kentucky

I am presenting to a group called "friskies" tomorrow morning. These are people who work at our schools' FRYSCs: Family Resources and Youth Services Centers. FRYSCs are on the front lines of out-of-school problems kids and families are facing that could affect in-school achievement. Tomorrow, they want info on renters' rights in foreclosure because this is an issue they see arise over and over again. FRYSCs report that often children and their families lose housing quickly and without much warning because a landlord and the foreclosing bank fails to tell the renter about the foreclosure. 

Because of the Protecting Tenants in Foreclosure Act, renters have substantial rights regarding their ability to enjoy the property they are renting even though it is going through a foreclosure. Originally scheduled to expire at the end of this year, the protections were extended through 2014 as part of the Dodd–Frank Act. Unfortunately, cuts to funding to Legal Aid organizations means that renters do not often have the representation they need and these rights often go unenforced. 

Renters' rights are pretty straightforward under the Protecting Tenants in Foreclosure Act. Provided you are not related to the landlord, are paying a fair price for the rent, and the rental agreement was an arms-length transaction, you are allowed to stay in the property all the way through the sale of the home in foreclosure. Even after the sale, the new purchaser must ask the court to issue him or her a deed. Only after the court issues a new deed can the new owner send you a Notice to Vacate and even then the new owner must provide you with ninety days (NINETY!) to vacate and find new housing. 

That's the bare minimum. If you have a lease agreement with the old landlord that lost the property in foreclosure that lasts longer than the ninety day minimum notice, you are entitled to enjoy the property for the duration of that lease unless the new owner plans on occupying the property as his or her primary residence.

As I said above, these are substantial rights that are rarely enforced because we do not fund legal aid organizations they way they should be funded and our legal system does not provide the infrastructure to renters that it should. I have created a document I'm calling "Entry of Appearance and Notice of Rights under the Protecting Tenants in Foreclosure Act". Two versions are below. One is blank and can be downloaded and handwritten. The other contains form fields into which you can type the required information.

Before you go using these forms, listen: I am not your lawyer. By using these forms you acknowledge that you are unrepresented by counsel and are seeking to assert your rights yourself, without an attorney. If I were going to be your lawyer, you would have to contact me and we would have to actually, you know, talk and you would probably have to pay me money. I am providing these forms as a community service and do not promise they will be useful or effective in any way. You know what is effective? Having a lawyer. So, you can contact me or contact the Kentucky Lawyer Referral Service to find one to help you with your case. I hate to get a stern tone with you, but seriously: I'm not your lawyer

All that being said and understood, here are the forms. You can "right-click" on these links to download the files to your computer).

Renters are often less financially secure than homeowners and so the disruption of a foreclosure can hit innocent renters even harder than it can the landlord being foreclosed upon. The Protecting Tenants in Foreclosure Act is designed to offer a brief period of stability following a foreclosure sale while the tenant endeavors to secure new housing. It's important to our community and especially our kids that we as a legal community do everything we can to provide them that stability in a time of flux. 

Do you know that sometimes being a lawyer gives me the chills?

The Right to Counsel in Kentucky Evictions and Foreclosures

Yesterday, I presented at the Kentucky Bar Association's Kentucky Law Update on our foreclosure crisis. I wish I could pull the tape from yesterday's presentation to prove to you that this is a direct quote: 

Folks, this crisis [the foreclosure crisis and the imbalance of power of the parties] is the defining legal issue of our time. This is our Gideon v. Wainwright moment and we will be judged by how we respond.

In today's New York Times, professor Matthew Desmond says, seriously, the exact same thing for landlord–tenant cases.

Our legal system extends the right to a state-appointed attorney to someone facing months or years of prison but not to someone facing months or years of homelessness.
— Matthew Desmond in the NYT

The time has come to establish the right to counsel in cases where a family's housing is on the line.