Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 21

By John Murph

O

n a Friday morning in early August, Riccardo
"Ric" Macchiaroli, an intellectual property
associate at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP,
sat face to face with his first pro bono
customer of the day at the D.C. Bar Pro Bono
Center's Landlord Tenant Resource Center at D.C.
Superior Court: a Spanish-speaking single mother
of four facing eviction. With a monthly income
of approximately $400 in a city that has long
grappled with a shortage of affordable housing,
she had very few options for alternate housing.
Access to emergency financial assistance for rent
payments requires some paperwork, and she
was already at a loss on where to start.

Speaking through an interpreter, the woman mentioned the unsafe
and unsanitary conditions in her current apartment, including mice and
roaches, broken windows, a refrigerator that hadn't worked in a while, and
an overflowing toilet. Macchiaroli took meticulous notes as he listened to
her story, asking questions at certain points and pressing for more details.
At the end of the consultation, he told the customer (the term for individuals at the Landlord Tenant Resource Center) that she could try to
negotiate a resolution of the case, request a continuance, or file an answer
based upon the housing code violations she cited to fight the eviction.
Macchiaroli's last customer that day was a small landlord who was seeking
to remove three tenants from his apartment unit; they owed him more
than $8,000 in back rent and had not signed a new lease since December
2018. The landlord had filed a complaint in July for nonpayment of rent,
but the defendants failed to appear in court. Macchiaroli explained to
the customer that he needed to refile and re-serve the summons and
complaint on the tenants, requiring a process server to deliver them.
Those two customers are among the thousands of unrepresented District
residents who find their way to the Landlord Tenant Resource Center
every year, desperate for legal help with a variety of housing matters as
they navigate the confusing and daunting process at D.C. Superior Court's
Landlord Tenant Court. The Landlord Tenant Resource Center operates
Monday through Friday and is staffed by attorney volunteers from 19
local law firms. The Pro Bono Center provides in-depth training to all of
its attorney volunteers, and there is always a Pro Bono Center attorney
available on site to provide guidance and support.
Between July 2018 and June 2019, a total of 3,398 tenants and 608 small
landlords (owners of no more than four units) received assistance from
the resource center. Attorney volunteers like Macchiaroli, who provide
critical legal information to the resource center's customers, are often
the only ones standing between tenants and homelessness.
Qualifying tenants who need more than legal information are referred
to the Pro Bono Center's new Attorney of the Day Program at Landlord
Tenant Court. Housing attorneys Alicia Lee and Brian Rohal alternate as
attorneys of the day, providing same-day limited representation (and in
some cases full representation) to tenants facing eviction. In the program's inaugural year, Lee and Rohal represented 378 tenants in court.

UNAFFORDABLE HOUSING

Pro Bono Center housing attorneys Alicia Lee and Brian Rohal
serve as attorneys of the day at D.C. Superior Court's Landlord Tenant
Court, providing limited and full representation to tenants facing
eviction.
Photos: Patrice Gilbert Photography

A day at Landlord Tenant Court illustrates the housing crisis that has
gripped Washington, D.C., for years. New residential developments are
popping up all over the District's neighborhoods, but rents are out of
reach for low-income populations. Of the city's 702,455 residents, almost
17 percent live below the poverty line. According to "The Gap: A Shortage
of Affordable Homes," a March 2019 report published by the National
Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), "extremely low-income renters
in the U.S. face a shortage of seven million affordable and available rental
homes." In Washington, D.C., only 40 affordable and available housing
units exist for every 100 extremely low-income renter households.
NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2019

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WASHINGTON LAWYER

21



Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019

Digital Extras
Your Voice
From Our President
Practice Management
Calendar of Events
Going Above and Beyond feature
On Safer Ground feature
Casa Ruby Profile
Pro Bono Effect
Member Spotlight
Worth Reading
Media Bytes
Attorney Briefs
Ask the Ethics Experts
Disciplinary Summaries
Community & Connections
Last Word
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Cover1
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Cover2
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 1
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 2
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 3
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Digital Extras
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Your Voice
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - From Our President
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 7
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Practice Management
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 9
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Calendar of Events
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 11
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Going Above and Beyond feature
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 13
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 14
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 15
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 16
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 17
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - On Safer Ground feature
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 19
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 20
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 21
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 22
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 23
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 24
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 25
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Casa Ruby Profile
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 27
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 28
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 29
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 30
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 31
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Pro Bono Effect
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 33
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 34
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 35
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 36
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Member Spotlight
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 38
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 39
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Worth Reading
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 41
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Media Bytes
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Attorney Briefs
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Disciplinary Summaries
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Community & Connections
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 46
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 47
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Last Word
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Cover3
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Cover4
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