FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, March 23, 2022
CONTACT: Morgan Kelly, ACLU of Delaware communications director, firstname.lastname@example.org
WILMINGTON, DE—This afternoon, the House Housing and Community Affairs Committee voted to advance Senate Substitute 1 for Senate Bill 101 (SS1 for SB 101) out of committee and onto the floor for a vote by the full House. SS1 for SB 101 provides the most vulnerable low-income renters a fair shot during eviction proceedings by guaranteeing a right to representation in court for renters who fall below 200% of federal poverty guidelines.
“Eviction proceedings, where landlords are usually represented and renters are not, reveal a massive imbalance of power,” said Dan Atkins, executive director of Community Legal Aid Society, Inc. (CLASI). “That imbalance frustrates the very purpose of our court system — the pursuit of justice. The practical implications are profound — too many evictions, families displaced, and communities destabilized.”
Since the bill’s introduction in 2021 — sponsored by Senators Townsend and Pinkney and Representatives Minor-Brown, Lambert, and Johnson — advocates have listened to concerns from landlords and lawmakers. Changes to the bill reflect a desire to build consensus, while still keeping a strong bill for renters who will significantly benefit from it.
In its current form, SS1 for SB 101:
- Creates a right to legal representation for renters facing eviction whose household income is lower than 200% of federal poverty guidelines;
- Places coordination of the program within the Delaware Attorney General’s Office, who will contract with appropriate legal service organizations to provide representation in proceedings covered by the bill;
- Requires landlords to provide notice of the right to representation at certain designated intervals of a tenancy and in eviction proceedings; and,
- Creates an Eviction Diversion Program designed to help resolve payment or other issues once a landlord files for eviction.
In addition to those benefits, SS1 for SB 101 introduces a post-filing mediation program and mandatory referrals to the Delaware Housing Assistance Program (DEHAP), which creates more opportunities for amicable, quick, and satisfactory resolutions of disputes in ways that keep families housed and landlords paid.
Public comment in support of SS1 for SB 101 came from a wide range of stakeholders, including a Delaware landlord.
Pam Hill, who owns properties in New Castle County, submitted testimony that read: “To me, passing a bill that secures the right to representation for renters facing eviction is common-sense. It’s not an attack on my rights as a landlord; it’s about ensuring that the rights of my renters are also taken into consideration.”
Now that the bill has advanced out of committee, it will go to a full vote on the House Floor, then will need to advance through the Senate one more time before it can go to the Governor’s desk. Advocates hope to see this vote happen soon.
“Representatives in the House Housing Committee took an important step toward leveling the playing field between renters and landlords today,” said Javonne Rich, policy and advocacy director at the ACLU of Delaware (ACLU-DE). “We applaud the vote in support of right to representation today, and ask all members of the House to stand up for renters by voting ‘yes’ on SS1 for SB 101 when it comes up for a full floor vote.”
This press release can be found online here: https://www.aclu-de.org/en/press-releases/one-step-closer-leveling-playing-field-renters-advocates-celebrate-house-committee.
The Delaware Right to Representation for Eviction Defense campaign is a partnership between ACLU, ACLU of Delaware, Community Legal Aid Society, Inc., Delaware Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Delaware Volunteer Legal Services, Inc., H.O.M.E.S. Campaign, and Housing Alliance Delaware.
More information about the Delaware Right to Representation for Eviction Defense campaign can be found online here: http://aclu-de.org/rtr.