At the start of the pandemic last year, Delaware imposed a moratorium on evictions, an order that was modified by Gov. John Carney in July to allow evictions if they were “necessary in the interest of justice.”
But pandemic or not, renters face a battle once a landlord starts the eviction process. It’s a battle most tenants fight on their own.
For their part, landlords claim that Delaware is a tenant-friendly state that makes evictions more difficult.
According to an analysis by the University of Delaware’s Biden School of Public Policy and Administration, 86 percent of landlords have legal representation during an eviction hearing, while just 2 percent of renters have counsel. The study, published in April 2020 by the school’s Center for Community Research and Service looked at 300 evictions in northern New Castle County in 2017.
That eviction representation gap needs to change, said state Sen. Bryan Townsend, a Democrat who represents portions of Newark and Bear. He introduced legislation that would create a “right to counsel,” providing legal representation for residents with household income below 200% of the federal poverty line. For a family of four, that’s a total income of less than $53,000.
“Studies have shown that tenants represented under similar right-to-counsel protections adopted by at least eight major cities throughout the U.S. have resulted in tenants winning or settling their eviction proceedings in more than half of cases,” Townsend said. “Essentially, once they have an attorney, they’re winning half their cases.”
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