Warren’s (he/him) project will address housing insecurity in Prince George’s County, Maryland, with a particular focus on eviction defense.
Community Legal Services of Prince George’s County serves people facing eviction and provides counsel to defendants beginning on the day of their hearings under Maryland’s new access to counsel law. These tenants often do not understand the extent of their legal rights in eviction proceedings and need counsel to guide them through challenges to the insufficiency of the landlord’s complaint, rent escrow defenses, and the possibility of requesting a stay of the eviction.
Maryland tenants face eviction at the highest rate in the nation. Within Maryland, Prince George’s County’s eviction rate is eclipsed only by Baltimore. The COVID-19 pandemic left many Maryland households behind on rent, and while some have found relief through assistance programs, their landlords persist in filing eviction proceeding before these benefits come through. Perversely, these rental assistance programs have become so overwhelmed by requests that many tenants must consent to an eviction judgment to gain access to relief funding. Because of this perverse system of incentives, obtaining the client’s best interest in eviction proceedings can require conceding the initial case, connecting the client with relief organizations, and then assisting the client with post-judgment motions to vacate or seal the proceedings once the rent is paid.
Warren will directly represent people threatened with eviction by defending them in eviction proceedings and negotiating with their landlords for critical delays in litigation to allow time for rental assistance to arrive. He will also assist in training local attorney volunteers to assist in this defense. Warren will also participate in Community Legal Services of Prince George’s County’s education and outreach programs to help tenants avoid eviction proceedings before they begin.
Eviction threatens ordinary people’s stability and security. Their landlords use the force of law to extract profit from the need for housing, then discard tenants when they become inconvenient. I want to level the playing field for housing-insecure people.”
Warren Buff /
2022 Fellow in the Housing Justice Program