Study: Spending Now on Legal Aid Would Save City Down the Road

An annual investment of $3.5 million would cover the cost of legal representation for the thousands of low-income tenants who find themselves facing eviction orders in Philadelphia’s Municipal Court, according to a study released Tuesday by the Philadelphia Bar Association.

The $3.5 million investment would ultimately save the city $45.2 million in public costs associated with increased homelessnesses and displacement, the legal professional organization argued.

Currently, the vast majority of renters do not receive legal aid in Philadelphia, where landlords evict more people than in other large cities.

A lawyer is only guaranteed in criminal court. As a result, the study found that between 2007 and 2016, 80 percent of landlords are represented, while only 7 percent of renters are. Without an attorney, renters faced “disruptive displacement” 78 percent of the time, the report said.

But when they have a lawyer, the tenant has a 95 percent chance of avoiding homelessness or other potentially life-shattering outcomes, according to the Bar Association.

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