Finding a Lawyer

What types of tenants are eligible for free legal representation in Housing Court? 

Right to Counsel has been expanded to all zip codes in New York City! This means that no matter what neighborhood you live in, you may be eligible for free legal representation in Housing Court if you are low-income and an eviction case has been filed against you. Having a lawyer can help you stop or delay your eviction.

You will probably not be able to get free legal representation in Housing Court if:

  • Your housing issue is not about an eviction (exceptions apply for some extreme repair issues)
  • Your landlord has not started an eviction case yet (falling behind in the rent, threats of eviction, and pre-eviction papers are not enough)

How can I hire a private lawyer for my housing issue?

In some cases, a good tenant lawyer will make all of the difference. Be advised that the law firms below represent tenants for a fee and do not give general advice over the phone.

The above is a list of experienced lawyers and law firms who specialize exclusively in New York City tenant-landlord law, and who only represent tenants (and never represent landlords).

When choosing a private lawyer, you may want to consider:

  • Does your lawyer represent only tenants, and never landlords? A lawyer who represents both tenants and landlords may be knowledgeable about the court process, but there may be a conflict of interest. In most cases, housing lawyers will have many more landlord clients than tenant clients. Your own landlord may have hired the law firm in the past, or may do so in the future. Also, the lawyer may be more experienced in fighting for the interests of landlords and may be unfamiliar with many parts of the law that can benefit tenants. Met Council on Housing suggests that tenants find a lawyer who only represents tenants.
  • Does your lawyer specialize in New York City tenant-landlord law? Simply being a lawyer doesn’t mean that you know New York City tenant-landlord law. NYC housing law is extremely complex, and many people spend their career focusing on it exclusively. A lawyer who does other types of law (immigration, divorce, criminal defense, etc) will not be as familiar with the issues and nuances of NYC housing law. Met Council on Housing suggests that tenants find a tenant lawyer who specializes in NYC tenant-landlord law.

Where can I go for free legal assistance? 

While the expansion of Right to Counsel has greatly increased tenants’ ability to get free legal representation in an eviction case, it can still be difficult to get free or low-cost legal help if you do not have a current case or you have legal needs outside of an eviction. If you are unable to get a lawyer, make sure you prepare yourself best to defend yourself in court.

A good starting point in your search for free legal services is:

Citywide Legal Service Providers:

Special Categories for Citywide Legal Services:

YOUTH: The Door Legal Services Center  Serves people between the ages of 12 and 21 citywide

The Family Center – Caretakers who care for minor children due to parental illness, absence, or loss; families with adolescents who are at-risk of out-of-home placement.

MEDICAL: The Family Center – Individuals with HIV/AIDS, cancer, diabetes; caretakers of children exposed to HIV.

By Borough:





Staten Island:

Do I have a right to a lawyer in housing court?

Under the Right to Counsel law, the city provides free legal counsel to low-income tenants with eviction cases. In 2021 Right to Counsel was expanded to ALL zip codes in New York City. Any income-eligible tenant facing an eviction has the RIGHT to a free attorney regardless of what area they live in.

What is Right to Counsel? 

Right to Counsel was introduced in August 2017. This bill turned the new page on the success of tenants’ movement to protect low-income tenants who are sued for eviction in housing court. No matter what kind of eviction cases that tenants have, they are able to get an attorney to defend their cases for free. Even if a tenant is over the eligible income level, they have the right to a legal consultation or advice session.

This is New York City’s promise to all tenants who face evictions. This new law protects low-income tenants to make sure they can defend themselves in court with free legal services.

How do I find out if I’m income eligible for Right to Counsel?

Tenants will have a right to an attorney if their income is at or below 200% of the poverty line, which is about $25,000 for a single person and about $53,000 per family of 4. Even if tenant’s income is over 200%, tenants might still be able to get an attorney from a legal services program with different eligibility requirement.

Where do I get an attorney for Right to Counsel?

The right to an attorney starts when your case is filed. If you are eligible, you will be referred to a tenant attorney in Housing Court, or sent to the legal service provider’s office. Once you have a court date, the lawyers from the legal service providers will call out your name to ask if you need an attorney. Next, the lawyer will do an intake with you, asking you basic questions about your income and your case. They will then schedule an appointment with you to discuss the details of your case.

Does my immigration status impact my ability to access an attorney?

Any low-income tenant who is facing an eviction case can access a free attorneys regardless of their immigration status.

Am I able to find an attorney if I am over 200% of the Poverty Line?

You may still be able to get an attorney from a legal services program with different eligibility requirements

Does Met Council on Housing offer legal represetation?

Met Council on Housing does not offer legal representation, accompany tenants to court, or give legal advice. We do have a number of tenant-assistance programs to educate tenants and inform them of their rights, including our Tenants’ Rights Telephone Hotline, our Walk-In Clinic, and the Help & Answers section of this website. We do not have lawyers on staff. Our programs are fully staffed by volunteers from our membership base. Our model is one of mutual aid: tenants helping tenants.

Further Reading