Making Justice Real

The Official Blog of the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia

THE DC COUNCIL SHOULD VOTE “NO” ON THE “EVICTION WITH DIGNITY EMERGENCY AMENDMENT ACT”

The Legal Aid Society urges Councilmembers to vote NO on the Eviction with Dignity Emergency Amendment Act of 2018 and the Eviction with Dignity Temporary Amendment Act of 2018 when they come up for a vote tomorrow, July 10. These misleadingly-named pieces of legislation, which would undo legislation that the Council passed less than two weeks ago, would harm the District’s low-income tenants by making it more likely that they would lose all of their possessions. If you are interested in protecting the District’s low-income tenants from these harmful bills, please contact your Councilmembers immediately to let them know that they should vote NO.

THE U.S. MARSHALS ARE CHANGING THE EVICTION PROCESS THIS SUMMER AND THE COUNCIL RESPONDED WITH EMERGENCY LEGISLATION

On June 26th, DC Council unanimously passed the Eviction Reform Emergency Amendment Act of 2018. The Act was a necessary response to a recently-announced policy change by the U.S. Marshals Services around eviction procedures, and more importantly, a step toward creating a more dignified eviction process in the District. Currently, when a tenant is evicted, the Marshals supervise the removal of the tenant’s belongings from the unit, with those belongings left on the curb. This spring, Marshals announced that, instead of supervising removal of belongings, they would simply supervise the landlord changing the locks to the unit, leaving tenant’s belongings locked inside. The Marshals will begin implementing their new policy over the summer.

The Eviction Reform Emergency Amendment Act – drafted through a working group process in cooperation with representatives of large housing providers – introduced a requirement that landlords move belongings locked in the unit to an off-site storage facility, pre-paying for 30 days of storage. This new policy will allow tenants time to access and move their belongings while not hindering the re-renting of the unit. The Eviction Reform Emergency Amendment Act brings the District in line with many other jurisdictions that have a storage requirement, including New York City, Boston, Connecticut, and others.

CHAIRMAN MENDELSON IS SEEKING TO UNDO THE COUNCIL’S WORK

In spite of the unanimous passage of this legislation, as well as continuing discussions among landlord and tenant stakeholders about potential ways to improve it, last Thursday, Chairman Mendelson circulated his own emergency legislation to repeal and replace it, stripping tenants of the new protections already unanimously approved by Council just nine days earlier. The new legislation (problematically called the “Eviction with Dignity Emergency Amendment Act of 2018”) would remove the storage requirement, requiring the landlord to hold the tenant’s belongings in the unit for just 48 hours and give the tenant a single three-hour window to remove those belongings. After that point, the legislation would allow the landlord to dispose of the tenant’s things, including by selling the belongings and keeping the profits to cover the cost of the eviction.

CHAIRMAN MENDELSON’S PROPOSAL WILL HARM LOW-INCOME TENANTS

Not only would this legislation remove protections that the Council just approved by a 13-0 vote, it would harm low-income tenants. Because the Marshals’ simplified eviction process will likely allow evictions to proceed more quickly, tenants will have less time to access programs like ERAP to potentially stay in their homes or to identify a place to move their belongings. With little time to access assistance, and only a 3-hour window to move their belongings once the locks have been changed, it is far more likely that tenants will be thrown into homelessness and have their belonging thrown away – or sold off – two days later.

For low-income tenants, the contents of their homes represent the sum total of their assets (not to mention sentimental belongings like family photos and heirlooms) and the loss of those belongings due to a period of homelessness is catastrophic. Lost belongings often include vital records and other documents that they may need in order to access assistance after eviction –including, potentially, from the homeless services system. Allowing landlords to dispose of these tenants’ belongings in this manner is cruel, counterproductive, and inconsistent with the District’s values.

THE COUNCIL SHOULD REJECT THE CHAIRMAN’S PROPOSAL AND RE-AFFIRM THEIR COMMITMENT TO LEGISLATION

We urge Councilmembers to stand by the votes that they took on June 26, and vote NO on the Eviction with Dignity Emergency Amendment Act of 2018 and the Eviction with Dignity Temporary Amendment Act of 2018.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

To let your Councilmembers know that they should stand with low-income tenants and reject these bills, contact them using the information below.

Phil Mendelson Chair 202-724-8032 pmendelson@dccouncil.us @ChmnMendelson
Brianne Nadeau Ward 1 202-724-8181 bnadeau@dccouncil.us @BrianneKNadeau
Jack Evans Ward 2 202-724-8058 jevans@dccouncil.us @JackEvansWard2
Mary Cheh Ward 3 202-724-8062 mcheh@dccouncil.us @marycheh
Brandon Todd Ward 4 202-724-8052 btodd@dccouncil.us @CMBrandonTodd
Kenyon McDuffie Ward 5 202-724-8028 kmcduffie@dccouncil.us @CM_McDuffie
Charles Allen Ward 6 202-724-8072 callen@dccouncil.us @CharlesAllen
Vincent Gray Ward 7 202-724-8068 vgray@dccouncil.us @VinceGrayWard7
Trayon White, Sr. Ward 8 202-724-8045 twhite@dccouncil.us @trayonwhite
Robert C. White, Jr. At large 202-724-8174 rwhite@dccouncil.us @RobertWhite_DC
Anita Bonds At large 202-724-8064 abonds@dccouncil.us @AnitaBondsDC
David Grosso At large 202-724-8105 dgrosso@dccouncil.us @cmdgrosso
Elissa Silverman At large 202-724-7772 esilverman@dccouncil.us @CM_Silverman
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