Do Lawyers Matter? Early Evidence on Eviction Patterns After the Rollout of Universal Access to Counsel in New York City

Blog post by Janelle Jack
August 4, 2021

Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy   (New York)

Considering the multitude of difficulties associated with appearing in court without a lawyer, providing low-income tenants with access to free legal services is thought to decrease the likelihood of eviction and possible homelessness. This blog post summarizes key findings from this journal article, which examines the effects of NYC's Universal Access to Counsel program (UAC) in the private rental market and finds that the ZIP Codes where UAC was initially rolled out (early UAC ZIP Codes) had higher rates of represented tenants and lower rates of executed warrants of eviction than ZIP Codes selected for UAC, but prior to its implementation. During the study period, answering rates--or the rate at which tenants appeared in response to court filings--increased dramatically throughout the city, likely due to citywide outreach and tenant engagement. However, the study did not find a significant difference in answering rates in UAC ZIP Codes.