Western University law students help keep tenants from eviction in landlord disputes
Thursday, June 13, 2013
Six Western University law students are successfully jumping in on short notice to help disadvantaged tenants stay in their homes through Western's Eviction Prevention Project. And they’re representing clients who would otherwise be evicted.
The project began last summer when Margaret Capes, Review Counsel for Western’s Community Legal Services and Pro Bono Students Canada faculty advisor, realized that tenants were often unassisted in the hearing room. By October 2012, she had the project up and running. Today, specially trained students are now attending the Landlord and Tenant Board, often within two weeks of receiving a file referral and meeting with the client.
“Losing your home is one of the worst things that can happen to you,” Maeve Byrne, one of the six core team members on the Eviction Prevention Project, reflects.
She recalls an older client who had difficulty understanding her lease agreement and fell behind on her rent.
“She had nowhere to go,” Maeve remembers, “but the landlord was taking a hard stance and wanted to evict her.”
With Maeve’s help, the client and landlord were able to come up with a reasonable payment plan that allowed the client to pay off her arrears.
Helping repair the landlord-tenant relationship
“Sometimes, having a third party to open up a dialogue helps to repair the relationship between the landlord and tenant,” explains Elizabeth Ferris, an articling student at Community Legal Services and project coordinator for the Eviction Prevention Project. “Often, cases are negotiated.”
A good example includes a couple who had lived in their home for 15 years and had grown accustomed to a flexible payment schedule. When their landlord decided this was no longer acceptable, the couple was in danger of losing the home they’d lived in for so long.
With the help of the Eviction Prevention Project team, the clients were able to work out a new payment schedule and resolve their conflict with their landlord.
Support for 45 tenants so far - and not a single eviction
“Since we’ve launched, we’ve helped 45 clients and there hasn’t been a single Landlord and Tenant Board eviction order yet,” Elizabeth says. “There have been instances, however, where the team has helped both sides to reach an agreement to end a tenancy.”
While the team has a strong success rate, part of what the team does is provide clients with a reality check by preparing them for the possibility that they could be forced out of their homes within two weeks. But every way step of the way, clients know they have someone in their corner, trying to help them stay in their homes.
If you’re a London-area resident facing eviction, you can call Community Legal Services at Western University at 519-661-3352.
For questions or further information, please contact: