A new program assisting Columbus residents facing evictions has released a report on its first six months of work.
It’s probably no surprise having a lawyer with you in a court room is better than going it alone. But Jyoshu Tsushima, who heads up Columbus Legal Aid’s Tenant Advocacy Project (TAP), says they’re trying to put a number on how their legal advice has improved outcomes for people in eviction court.
“In the cases where attorneys weren’t present, it was about a 50 percent chance that the tenants would end up being evicted from the property," he said. "And then the cases where we were actually directly representing the tenants, only 1 percent of those tenants would actually got evicted.”
Tsushima says going in, he expected only a handful of tenants would have claims that could help them avoid an eviction — instead, almost half had some defense available. The key, Tsushima says, is they needed an attorney to help them navigate the system and prepare their evidence.
TAP lawyers made significant increases in “agreed entries,” agreements between tenants and landlords to avoid eviction by giving more time for move out or establishing a payment schedule to get back on track. But with just one full time staffer and volunteers, he says TAP has only been able to consult on about 5 percent of Franklin County's evictions.
“What that’s telling us is that if we’re able to actually get more attorneys to represent the tenants we could most likely see many more agreements being produced that give the tenants that sort of empowerment,” he said.
In 2016, more than 18,000 evictions cases made their way through Franklin County courts. According to the Princeton Eviction Lab, that amounts to a rate almost double the national average.