The Landlord's Advantage

who has legal representation?

Use this tool to see how access to legal counsel differs between landlords and tenants over time.

Disparities in access to legal counsel in eviction court provide glaring evidence of the power imbalance that overwhelmingly favors landlords.

Pandemic relief funds increased tenants' access to legal representation, but the right to legal counsel remains out of reach for most tenants – maintaining landlords' advantage in court.


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Select Timespan: Use the drop-down menu to view data for a specific time period.

We counted a party as having legal representation if an attorney filed an appearance on their record.



The vast majority of landlords have lawyers, but most tenants are forced to defend their rights and fight for their housing without legal representation.

Research shows that ensuring the right to an attorney in eviction court can help enforce tenant protections and prevent unjust displacement.

Pandemic relief funds allowed local legal aid organizations to provide free legal advice to tenants who attended their hearings, but did not enable them to provide full representation to all who needed it. Tenants' and landlords' access to counsel increased during the pandemic, and a wide disparity remains.

In May 2022, the Detroit Right to Counsel (RTC) Coalition successfully advocated for City Council to pass a RTC ordinance. However, just $6 million in temporary ARPA funding has been allocated out of the $16.7 million it will cost to implement the RTC.

Legal jargon

Right to Counsel (RTC): Laws which ensure that tenants facing eviction are guaranteed legal representation even if they cannot afford an attorney. RTC also refers to a national movement advocating for the right to legal representation in any civil procedure where a person’s basic human needs (home, income, healthcare, children) are at stake.

In May 2022, Detroit’s RTC Coalition succeeded in convincing the City Council to pass an RTC ordinance. The ordinance amends the Detroit City Code to include the Right to Counsel in Eviction Proceedings (Section 22-8-1 through 22-8-9).

The law establishes an Office of Eviction Defense within the Housing and Revitalization Department and a coordinator to designate qualified nonprofit organizations to begin providing full legal representation to covered individuals by October 1, 2022. City residents at 200% FPL will qualify for representation “in residential eviction cases in 36th District Court and in housing-related administrative proceedings which threaten occupancy” (including eviction proceedings, mortgage and property tax foreclosures, land forfeiture, threats to rent subsidies, as well as actions related to illegal self-help evictions).

Through 2026, funding for RTC will be limited to “legally available” county, state, or federal funds, including those provided by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), and private funds. The Law Department has argued that spending general fund dollars on RTC would be unconstitutional. Despite its intent to ensure the right to counsel, the ordinance identifies a prioritization process for providing legal representation if annual funding is insufficient to meet demand.