Kamara Alleyne, St. Mary’s University School of Law, LLM Program
Volunteering at SALSA during my Spring Break gave me an overview into the world of housing not only from a legal stance but also from a social point of view. Housing insecurity is a layered issue that significantly affects lower income tenants, as many persons are already living in housing that they can barely afford.
During my time at eviction court much of the testimony shared centered around families who faced some sort of unexpected hardship that caused them to be out of work and unable to get back on their feet. In some instances, some persons were living in modest housing, but their rent still exceeded their income. These instances made it very apparent to me that perhaps housing as a basic need isn’t very affordable.
The laws around landlord and tenants’ rights adds another layer to housing insecurity from the tenant’s perspective. Often, what keeps tenants from being able to fight or prevent eviction is the inability to afford legal advice which becomes a significant hurdle when it comes to understanding their legal rights and what options may be available to them.
Many tenants are not aware that a landlord cannot evict a tenant without following a specific process. This is significant because it can result in the tenant and their family unfairly losing their housing.
For tenants who have just received a judgement, the appeal process can be difficult to navigate, especially at a time when emotions may be high. Eviction cases are heard at the JP Court, Precinct 1 every Thursday. SALSA plays such an integral role in these instances by having a presence at the court every Thursday to provide legal services and support to these tenants. Appealing the judgement is often the determining factor as to whether a tenant loses their housing. Unfortunately, most unrepresented tenants are not aware of this crucial factor.
My time volunteering at SALSA was an extremely rewarding and worthwhile experience that has opened my eyes to some of the issues that tenants face. I look forward to volunteering again with this organization with the hopes of helping even more tenants further understand their rights and to ultimately achieve housing security.