May 2016 Bar Bulletin
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May 2016 Bar Bulletin

Pro Bono Services Clinic of the Month – Housing Justice Project, Kent Clinic

By Harry Higgins

 

Every day, low-income tenants in King County face eviction from their homes. In one recent case, a single man living with a roommate was served with a three-day notice to pay rent or vacate, but felt that his rent payments were being inaccurately applied to his account.

Additionally, when he moved into the apartment, it was dirty, the door had been left open, and some other serious damage had not been repaired by the landlord. Ultimately, he was served a summons and complaint for unlawful detainer, and came to the Housing Justice Project in Kent for assistance on the day of his show cause hearing.

The Housing Justice Project (HJP) is open every morning in both King County courthouses, Seattle and Kent, to provide assistance to low-income residential tenants in eviction matters only, relying on volunteer attorneys and legal assistants. Our volunteers meet with the tenants one-on-one to find out why they are being evicted, what they want to do and how to help them meet these goals.

The volunteer will attempt to negotiate a resolution to the case with the landlord’s attorney, or, if necessary, represent the tenant at the eviction hearing. Our volunteer attorneys will also offer counsel and advice on pre-litigation, eviction-related notices, or will draft, file and serve responsive pleadings.

The tenant in our recent case met with an HJP Kent volunteer attorney, who determined that although the tenant wanted to assert claims about habitability issues and an illegal entry into his apartment, the tenant had no proof of either with him. The tenant initially wanted to make a payment arrangement to stay in the apartment, but had no money to offer up front. The HJP attorney negotiated with the landlord’s attorney and was ultimately able to reach a mutual termination agreement whereby the tenant was housed for 10 extra days and paid no money, saving him $7,100 in a judgment.

This is what the staff and volunteers do every day at the Housing Justice Project. We are in dire need of volunteer attorneys, particularly in our Kent location, who can put in one morning shift of about four hours, Monday through Friday, to help with our continuously increasing client numbers.

At HJP, our volunteers have a chance to work with real people who have immediate legal needs, engage in live negotiations with opposing counsel or even represent a tenant in front of a commissioner. If you are a new attorney looking for litigation experience, an in-house attorney who needs a courthouse “fix” once a month or are just looking for a unique pro-bono experience that is both challenging and fulfilling, the Housing Justice Project is for you!

 

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