VLP’s Landlord Advocacy
In Fall 2020, the Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP) joined the statewide Eviction Diversion Initiative known as the COVID Eviction Legal Help Project (CELHP) to provide legal services to unrepresented low-income constituents who would not otherwise have access to legal help, financial resources or assistance in navigating housing matters during the pandemic. Having provided legal services in the landlord tenant and housing area for the past 40 years in the City of Boston, VLP was chosen to create and implement a statewide program to assist low income landlords who reside in and who rent out a part of their 2-3 family home. This population is often elderly, English is a second language, and they are without ready access to resources. In some cases, they survive only on their pension and moderately priced rental income to pay the bills, maintain the property in good condition and keep the mortgage up to date. They live in and rent out the property they own, so the tenants are also quite literally the closest neighbors.
Although it is a new project, within a few months and through the efforts of strategic and effective staff – VLP brought together a team of 35 experienced landlord tenant attorneys, paralegals, and law students from all segments of the community, developed an active association with the University of Massachusetts School of Law, Justice Bridge Program and the Hampden County Legal Clinic, which is reinforced by the mentorship of retired judges, senior attorneys and partners in law firms all of whom voluntarily provide advice, education and assure the delivery of quality legal assistance and resources to this vulnerable landlord population.
In the process of creating and implementing this project, VLP engaged with a high-tech software company called Legal Squirrel with the vision to transform the delivery of legal services to this landlord population. It uses a virtual, secure platform to connect client and lawyer in real-time. The platform also functions as a repository of information for our attorneys to best determine the scope of legal needs of the population VLP serves. Rounding out the work of VLP under the Landlord program is our communication, education and outreach collaboration with local non-profit organizations and community partners to exchange ideas, share updates, get the word out about VLP services and send referrals.
Among the services VLP provides is access to a virtual One-on-One Legal Advice program and Low Bono Legal Advice to unrepresented income eligible and qualified landlords. In addition, VLP strives to serve them beyond the courtroom and address the broader issues this landlord population faces by providing upstream assistance such as support with the financial assistance applications process and access to 100% free educational materials, referrals, and resources.