COLUMBIA, SC – A newly released report shows that South Carolina can save money—and help renters facing eviction—by enacting a right to counsel.
The ACLU of South Carolina has partnered with nationally recognized researchers at global advisory firm Stout Risius Ross, LLC to analyze the cost and benefits associated with an eviction right to counsel for income-eligible renters in eviction proceedings in South Carolina. The analysis shows that significant cost savings could occur if lawmakers enacted such a right, which would keep South Carolinians from experiencing the trauma and disruption of being displaced from their homes.
- With an annual investment of approximately $7.2 million to fund right to counsel for renters facing eviction, South Carolina could realize $21 million in fiscal benefits annually.
- For every $1 invested in a right to counsel program for renters facing eviction, the State could reduce its expenditure on social safety net programs and services by nearly $3.
- Based on the average household size of three people, approximately 18,300 South Carolinians are likely to avoid a major disruption to their lives each year if renters had the right to counsel when facing eviction.
“In more than 99% of eviction proceedings in South Carolina, renters have no legal representation, which most often results in the loss of a home,” said ACLU of SC Equal Justice Works Fellow Michelle Mapp. “Often this creates a ripple effect of devastating repercussions for renters and their families, including homelessness and poor health and education outcomes.”
Tenants who seek and receive legal representation are overwhelmingly female heads of households with young children, and their cases often involve circumstances involving sub-standard housing, harassment, difficulty accessing rental assistance, verbal lease agreements and other disputes or complications. The Stout Report compiled research and data from South Carolina and across the country and the results indicate that when tenants have legal representation, they are significantly less likely to experience the trauma and disruption that often leads to social service responses from local and state government.
Stories like Sineeka Latimer’s, featured in a NBC news article at the onset of the pandemic, are all too common: the Greenville mother of 4 worked at an assisted living facility for $12 an hour, and pandemic hardships coupled with rental offices closing due to the coronavirus hindered her ability to gather all the documents she needed to renew her lease and pay her rent on time. Within days, she received an eviction notice and would need to navigate the eviction process and try to avoid displacing her children.
The report findings reveal that passing eviction right to counsel benefits landlords, tenants, and the community, and yet Eviction Right to Counsel legislation filed in SC’s General Assembly has not received a hearing. This year, State Representative Marvin Pendarvis introduced H.3844, a bill to implement a statewide right to legal representation for renters facing eviction. The legislation proposes to fund the program with federal Eviction Rental Assistance (ERA) funds already awarded to the state, eligible to be used to fund the program, and encouraged by the U.S. Treasury to be used for such a purpose.
“The Stout report confirms what we've long suspected—that eviction right to counsel is good policy for tenants, landlords, and our overall economy,” said Representative Pendarvis. “I hope this gives my colleagues in the General Assembly the information they need to pass this critical piece of legislation.”
“The success of the Charleston County Housing Court Pilot Project in reducing eviction rates and stemming the tide of disruptive displacements of families demonstrates the potential impact of implementing this program statewide,” said Mapp. “The Stout Report also shows the tangible economic impact of eviction right to counsel. It’s time for lawmakers to give this bill the consideration it deserves.”
About ACLU of South Carolina: ACLU of South Carolina’s mission is to realize the promise of the United States and South Carolina Constitutions for all and expand the reach of their guarantees. ACLU of SC works in the courts to defend liberty and seek relief for its clients harmed by unjust policies, in the legislature to advocate for policy that protects or advances civil liberties, and in communities to educate and mobilize citizen activists.
About Stout Risius Ross, LLC: Stout is a global investment bank and advisory firm specializing in corporate finance, transaction advisory, valuation, financial disputes, claims, and investigations. In addition to these services, Stout’s professionals have expertise in strategy consulting involving a variety of socioeconomic issues, including issues of, or related to access to justice and the needs of low-income individuals and communities.