SIDEBAR Spring 2020 - 13

MONTGOMERYBAR.ORG

Eviction Prevention &
Intervention Coalition (EPIC)
By Michelle R. Dempsky, Esq.
Staff Attorney, Legal Aid of Southeastern PA (LASP)

Y

our Way Home established
the Eviction Prevention
Intervention Coalition (EPIC)
as a proactive and strategic measure to
address the problem of homelessness
in Montgomery County. EPIC seeks
to intervene before tenants actually
find themselves evicted and without
reasonable alternative housing. Rather than address homelessness
only when tenants have been evicted from their homes and are
forced to seek housing in temporary shelters, EPIC's approach

is to intercept pending eviction cases at the Magisterial District
Court level prior to hearing. The coalition seeks to offer
struggling individuals and families same-day representation by
pro bono attorneys. Many of these tenants could not otherwise
afford legal representation. EPIC also offers financial assistance
and social supports to prevent evictions and secure future
housing stability.
Following a 2017 study, EPIC began as a pilot program in
January 2018, operating solely in the Magisterial District Court
under Judge Margaret Hunsicker. The project was created in
partnership with the Montgomery County Courts, Montgomery
Bar Association, Legal Aid of Southeastern Pennsylvania (LASP),
the Montgomery Bar Foundation, Pottstown Cluster of Religious
Communities, and the Montgomery County Office of Housing
& Community Development.
The approach of the program is three-fold: to prevent
unjustified evictions, to address poor conditions in rental units
through pro bono attorney representation, and to offer limited
financial assistance in cases of accrued rent and late fees. The
Court schedules landlord-tenant eviction matters during specific
days of the week. Pro bono attorneys offer limited representation
on these hearing dates. The benefit of counsel allows many
tenants, who may be unaware of their rights, of court procedure,
and of the legal standards involved, to adequately present
their case and defend themselves in cases where the eviction
is unwarranted. In instances where catastrophic events have
interfered with payments of rent (such as tenants' sudden
illnesses, temporary disabilities, unemployment, unexpected
necessary expenses, or becoming the victims of theft or other
crimes), EPIC assists with a one-time payment toward accrued
rents and late fees. According to the 2017-18 EPIC Impact
Report, many evictions occur for preventable reasons. Financial
issues and job loss account for 25% and 19% of evictions
respectively, with another 15% caused by habitability issues,
which are better addressed by competent counsel.
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SIDEBAR Spring 2020

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