2023 Grants Challenge

Tenant Power Toolkit

The Tenant Power Toolkit prevents homelessness by helping low-income tenants to stay housed. The online Toolkit informs tenants of their rights and connects them with an eviction-defense attorney - free of charge - so that they can fight eviction. The Toolkit is currently provided in English and Spanish and will be expanded into 12 additional languages to ensure the diverse communities of California can receive the help they need to remain in their homes.


What is the primary issue area that your application will impact?

Housing and Homelessness

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

County of Los Angeles

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Expand existing project, program, or initiative

What is your understanding of the issue that you are seeking to address?

LA County is in the midst of a homelessness crisis. Things are expected to get much worse now that pandemic eviction protections have expired. According to Census data, in the LA Metro Area alone there are 246,000 households behind on rent. More than 80% are people of color. March 2023 had the most filings in a month since 2018. Prior to the pandemic, LA County landlords filed more than 40,000 eviction cases annually. It's estimated tenants lose by default in 40% of cases-meaning that tenants did not file a response within five days. According to UCLA's Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy, "only a small proportion of tenants in eviction cases are represented by lawyers, compared to 95% of landlords." Each day some 207 people exit homelessness, but 227 others take their place. Prevention is the best way to end homelessness. Providing tenants with the tools to fight eviction is crucial to helping Angelenos maintain housing and avoid homelessness.

Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.

The Tenant Power Toolkit is a collaborative project between ICLC and the Debt Collective that prevents homelessness by helping low-income tenants fight eviction. The Toolkit informs tenants of their rights and connects them with an attorney. The project involves three components: 1. Creation, operation, and maintenance of the Tenant Power Toolkit, a web-based platform that allows tenants to electronically serve and file responses to eviction notices. The tool prepares not only an Answer (a defendant's response to a legal filing) but also the paperwork necessary to obtain a Waiver of Court Fees, a Declaration of COVID-related Financial Distress, and a Demand for Jury Trial. 2. An extensive outreach and education campaign about tenants' rights and the availability of the Toolkit. 3. Free, full scope representation in LA County courts. According to a 2019 STOUT study, 95% of people facing eviction who have full scope representation have a "high likelihood of avoiding disruptive displacement." Full-scope legal representation is the most effective way for a tenant to avoid eviction and possible homelessness. Currently, the Toolkit is available only in English and Spanish. This request will expand the project into 12 additional languages to help better serve LA's diverse communities. Expanded language capacity includes Chinese (traditional and simplified), Korean, Armenian, Russian, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, Arabic, Farsi, Tagalog, Hebrew, and Urdu.

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

This project will reduce homelessness by giving low-income tenants, regardless of English proficiency, the ability to fight illegal and wrongful evictions and stay housed. It is shockingly common for ICLC to see clients subjected to harassment and illegal eviction attempts by landlords who want tenants out so they can increase rents. Countless more don't reach us in time. The project will serve vulnerable, low-income people who would otherwise lack legal representation and the ability to file a response within the required five business days. Our project will help tenants avoid homelessness by informing them of their rights, providing them with a way to respond to eviction notices quickly, and connecting them to legal help they would otherwise not be able to afford. Short term, we will help low-income Angelenos at risk of eviction stay housed. Long term, the Tenant Power Toolkit will serve all counties in California, and will help to reduce homelessness throughout the state.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

The Tenant Power Toolkit is an existing project that is being expanded to include a more diverse language capacity. Currently, the Toolkit is available in English and Spanish. With support from LA 2050, it will be available in 12 additional languages. From July 2022 to April 2023, 3,568 total filings have been completed using the Toolkit, helping an estimated 9,634 people based on average household size. There have been 12,386 unique visitors to the Toolkit. ICLC has e-filed and served documents for 1,877 tenants in LA Count who qualify for a fee waiver. Each step of the project has built-in evaluation measures. The digital nature of the tool allows the Debt Collective to receive extensive data about how tenants are interacting with the tool. Feedback from community partners demonstrated that the Toolkit needed to be made available in more languages to better meet the needs of vulnerable tenants. Consequently, the partners are seeking additional funding to meet this need.

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 1,000

Indirect Impact: 2,500

Describe the role of collaborating organizations on this project.

ICLC and the Debt Collective will focus on building and supporting expanded language capacity for the Tenant Power Toolkit. The Debt Collective will focus on the technical construction of additional languages. ICLC will provide legal expertise and conduct e-filings and provide free legal representation for low-income tenants in Los Angeles. Both will use their existing collaborative networks and outreach teams to promote use of the Toolkit. All partners will use volunteer assistance in outreach efforts as needed, and ICLC will tap its dedicated pool of pro bono attorneys to represent clients and support the Tenant Defense Project team. Gary Blasi and Hannah Appel will continue to generously donate their time and services to the project.