Oct. 14, 2011
Cooley Law School Teams Up With Community Organizations to Offer Tenants Free Legal Help
Thomas M. Cooley Law School has teamed up with Legal Aid of Western Michigan, the Legal Assistance Center at the Kent County Courthouse, and the Kent County Renters' Alliance to offer free legal information to renters in Kent County. With approximately 10,000 evictions in Kent County last year, the Tenant Law Project will help guide tenants through their legal issues to avoid eviction, receive security deposit refunds and address housing repair issues.
Under the supervision of a professor or practicing attorney, law students participating in the Tenant Law Project will work with renters individually to inform them of their legal rights for their specific situations. The project does not provide legal representation in court. Those assisting with the project help renters better understand their options and next steps to take, and when needed, steer them toward the right community resource.
"There are great organizations in this community who are helping people in need of legal advice when confronted with issues from their landlords," said Tracey Brame, assistant dean and associate professor, Cooley Law School. "This project fills a major gap in available services while giving law students practical experience helping real people in the community."
Cooley professors and practicing attorneys have been recruited to supervise the 20 students participating in the Tenant Law Project. Legal Aid of Western Michigan attorney John Smith trained students on the basics of landlord/tenant law, existing housing services in the community and common legal issues renters face including renters’ rights during a foreclosure.
"Clearly, this is an important new project. At Legal Aid, we are experiencing increased requests for legal help from tenants," said Smith. "We prioritize representing renters in court when their tenancy is federally subsidized, their housing is unsafe or substandard, their landlord's actions are unfair or illegal, or they are otherwise unable to represent themselves. But because of our limited resources, we can't give legal help to every tenant who needs it. The Tenant Law Project will offer another avenue for renters to learn about their legal options."
"This is about stable, safe housing for families. We want to help families stay in their homes," said Kym Spring, director of the Kent County Renters' Alliance.
The Tenant Law Project is located at Steepletown Neighborhood Services (671 Davis Ave. NW in Grand Rapids). Distressed renters are invited between noon and 2 p.m. on the first and third Monday of each month. For further information about this service, please email Kym Spring at [email protected]
About Thomas M. Cooley Law School:
Thomas M. Cooley Law School is the largest law school in the nation. Founded in 1972, the private, nonprofit law school operates its Juris Doctor program, Joint Degree programs, and Master of Laws programs across Michigan in Lansing, Auburn Hills, Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor. Cooley recently announced a new Tampa Bay, Florida-area campus, with courses beginning in May 2012. Cooley has more than 15,000 graduates across the nation and worldwide and offers enrollment three times a year in January, May and September. Cooley is an independent law school, accredited by the American Bar Association and the Higher Learning Commission. Additional information can be found at cooley.edu.