Renters getting evicted from their apartments in N.J. city will now get free lawyers

Updated Jun 7, 2019

Low-income residents in Newark who are facing a potentially illegal or unwarranted eviction now have a new lifeline.

Less than a year after announcing its plans, Newark officially launched its Office of Tenant Legal Services on Wednesday to provide free legal services to those earning 200 percent of the federal poverty level or less.

The city has committed $400,000 to the initiative and is working to secure additional funding.

About 38,000 evictions are filed in Essex County every year with Newark accounting for 20,000 of those. About 78 percent of Newarkers are renters. And when faced with eviction, nine out of 10 don’t have an attorney, city officials said.

Residents will be referred to pro bono attorneys or to Essex Newark Legal Services. A $150,000 contract with the agency is pending approval by the City Council.

Kenyatta Stewart, the city’s corporation counsel, said the office of tenant legal services is staffed with two employees, with plans to internally reassign another. Khabirah Myers is the office’s coordinator. He said those interested in receiving legal representation should visit City Hall, complete an intake form where they will be screened for eligibility.

Stewart said the city was working on informing residents of the new service through social media, videos and brochures.

Newark is the third city in the country to launch free legal representation to tenants facing evictions. New York City and San Francisco also offer similar programs.

“We will not let abusive landlords have free reign to hound and harass tenants,” Mayor Ras Baraka said in a statement. "This is an opportunity to even the playing field and stop them from taking advantage of Newark residents with limited resources.”

The office of tenant legal services can be reached at 973-733-3675 or at [email protected].

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