Hampden County Housing Court Project
Mission & Profile
The Hampden County Housing Court Project was created in response to the Hampden County Housing Court’s plea to local attorneys to help reduce the number of unrepresented people in Housing Court. The attorneys involved in the project have represented hundreds of clients since its inception in matters before the Western Division of the Housing Court.
As part of a “Celebrate Pro Bono” reception in October 2009 honoring the pro bono legal work of attorneys across western Massachusetts, the Women’s Bar Foundation honored the project’s partners including MassMutual Financial Group, the law firm of Heisler, Feldman, McCormick & Garrow, P.C., the Massachusetts Justice Project, and the Hampden County Bar Association. The collaboration is an example of the difference that the combined resources of the private and public sectors can make in the lives of people in need. Each year, these partners devote countless hours to the representation of low-income tenants and landlords appearing in the Hampden County Housing Court.
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Hampden County Housing Court Project Highlights
There are many success stories to report. One in particular involved a family being evicted for non-payment of rent. In this matter, both the landlord and the tenants were eligible for representation through the Project. Counsel for the tenants identified and raised a variety of counter-claims, including claims for breach of the warranties of habitability and of quiet enjoyment. The landlord, in addition to being indigent, had a disability that prevented him from negotiating on his own behalf.
Without counsel, it is probable that he would have lost his home and been rendered homeless. Counsel for the landlord assisted him in understanding his exposure and in guiding him through the complicated negotiations.
The parties deliberated over the course of several months and reached a settlement which included six months of free rent while the family found a more appropriate living space. While they continued to live in the apartment, the landlord began correcting some of the conditions as the parties had agreed.
Ultimately, the family was able to save enough money to pay a first and last month’s rent for a new apartment. The landlord was able to remain in his home and continue the process of addressing the conditions which needed to be corrected.
The Housing Court Judge acknowledged that the results in this action provided a “win-win” for the parties and that without the representation provided through this Project, the results would have more than likely been devastating for both the tenants and the landlord.