Pro Bono Net is excited to announce its partnership with several New York State volunteer attorney programs to provide an online resource center for tenants and pro bono attorneys. The project, supported by the New York State Office of the Attorney General’s COVID-19 Tenant Assistance Initiative, will aid tenants facing housing issues outside of New York City, where the Right to Counsel in housing court does not exist. Through Pro Bono Net’s online resources center, the volunteer attorney programs will provide legal information that will help tenants prevent eviction during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated the preexisting vulnerabilities of tenants in New York State. Since the crisis began, New Yorkers are experiencing unemployment and loss of income at an unprecedented rate. As a result, many New Yorkers are unable to pay their housing costs. Recently, a landlord association in upstate New York reported that up to 50% of tenants missed their May rent payments. In response to these factors, the number of New Yorkers facing eviction in the coming months is likely to increase exponentially. Eviction moratoriums and other government interventions at the local and federal level have been a key factor in stemming the tide of eviction cases; however, the criteria for qualification under these can be difficult for tenants to understand. The online resource center is aimed at providing up-to-date information and resources to give volunteer attorneys, tenants, and the general public clear, easily accessible guidance on the forms of assistance available to those facing eviction, as well as tools to present defenses in court. 

Quoted from a LiveHelp user:

I have no income due to COVID-19. I have not paid April or May rent, and my landlord has deprived me of heat, hot water, and has now locked me out. What are my legal options to keep my housing?” 

As the state’s preeminent access point for free legal information and referrals, LawHelpNY continues to provide critical legal information for New Yorkers affected by COVID-19 and will leverage that statewide resource for this initiative. With funding from the New York State Office of the Attorney General’s COVID-19 Tenant Assistance Initiative, Pro Bono Net will leverage our well-established technology and infrastructure to provide accurate and timely information to tenants, while also building the capacity of legal services providers and pro bono attorneys assisting them. 

With this funding Pro Bono Net will develop and manage an online resource center to help those affected by the eviction crisis brought on by COVID-19. Currently Pro Bono Net’s LawHelpNY, Law Help Interactive, LiveHelp, and programs are already working to support tenants at risk and, through this project, we will identify which additional tools and resources will help address the needs of tenants and the pro bono attorneys it will serve. 

Pro Bono Net’s New York Programs Director, Veronica N. Dunlap, stated, “For over two decades, Pro Bono Net has played a key role in creating technology to achieve access to justice. We are excited to create the online resource center to support tenants and the lawyers who help them, at a time when New Yorkers are most in need.

We would like to thank the New York State Office of the Attorney General for funding this effort. We look forward to collaborating with the Erie County Bar Association’s Volunteer Lawyers Project, Legal Services of the Hudson Valley, Legal Aid Society of Mid-New York, Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York, Legal Assistance of Western New York, and Nassau Suffolk Law Services who are also grantees for this project.