The COVID-19 pandemic raised the salience of the country’s housing and homelessness prevention infrastructure. Legal services providers (“LSPs”) participated by advocating for eviction litigation moratoria. But when moratoria expired, most LSPs returned to their pre-pandemic practice of providing legal services, information, and advice only after litigation began. And various LSPs have informed the A2J Lab of take-up problems for some of their services, particularly offerings short of a traditional attorney-client relationship (such as telephone advice, lawyer-for-the-day programs, or advice sessions with a paralegal). In other words, LSP services remain reactive, with communication with potential users usually occurring only after litigation is filed, and in some cases underutilized. Today, only a handful of LSPs attempt outreach before eviction litigation and (the A2J Lab hypothesizes) as a result, take-up of available services post-litigation is less than optimal.
The same was largely true during the pandemic. A perceived demand for legal services to contest informal evictions increased from 2019-2021. But the examples of programs implemented to meet (allegedly) this need remained largely reactive. Indeed, eviction legal services have historically been largely reactive. Preventive services are few and are mostly some form of information/education rather than provision of attorneys for full-scope representation, which is often seen as crisis intervention rather than prevention. This fact makes it important to assess the effectiveness of these short-of-attorney interventions, as this project will do.
In addition, as noted above, these education programs face the challenge of ensuring the information is reaching the population that needs it – ensuring take-up. And evaluations to shape take-up of eviction diversion legal services are limited. Mechanisms to increase take-up of eviction prevention legal services could include community outreach and court referrals, although the latter may be too downstream to help prevention, and it can turn on potentially arbitrary judicial discretion. The A2J Lab also speculates that research from other disciplines can help us understand the challenge of take-up as well as provide some areas ripe to evaluate, such as strategies for increasing take-up of eviction prevention legal services. For example, low take-up of social services is sometimes attributed to stigmaand delayed delivery of benefits.
What We’ll Learn:
This pilot will investigate a proposed mechanism to transform eviction legal services from reactive and downstream to preventative and upstream; the mechanism may also increase take-up of legal services. The mechanism is the provision of legal information at a time when tenants are in danger of informal eviction. The information provided both describes further resources tenants can access (thus making take-up of such services a primary outcome variable of interest) and articulates recommended courses of action for tenants facing informal eviction (thus making housing security a primary outcome variable of interest).
We hypothesize that tenants are aware neither of legal services available should they face formal eviction nor of their pre-litigation legal rights and responsibilities with respect to their housing. As a result, high rates of tenants are evicted – formally and informally – without asserting available defenses or because they make procedural mistakes, some pre-litigation, such as documenting a landlord failure to make repairs or failing to keep sufficient records. This study will investigate the following questions: Do those receiving housing-related Know-Your-Rights-information remain more housing-secure than those not receiving such information? And do those receiving information via text about available services use those services more frequently?
We partner with Connective and their Connective Texts program to field the operation and with Alissa Gomez of the University of Houston Law Center to conduct the evaluation.
 Shoshana V. Aronowitz et al., “We Have to be Uncomfortable and Creative”: Reflections on the Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Overdose Prevention, Harm Reduction & Homelessness Advocacy in Philadelphia, Qualitative Rsch. in Health 1, 2 (2021).
 Mark Treskon et al., Eviction Prevention and Diversion Programs: Early Lessons from the Pandemic, Urb. Inst. (April 2021) (defining eviction preventions programs “as ones that prevent evictions from reaching the courts”).
 Emily A. Benfer et al., Eviction, Health Inequity, and the Spread of COVID-19: Housing Policy as a Primary Pandemic Mitigation Strategy, 98 J Urb. Health 1, 6 (2021).
 Id. at 7 (examples include rental assistance, which was sometimes executed on only after a court case was filed, eviction diversion programs, which were often court-led and thus post-eviction filing, and a civil right to counsel, which assumes a case is pending in the court system).
 See generally, Natasha Menon, A Comparative Analysis of Urban Eviction Prevention Policies in New York City, Philadelphia, and San Francisco, (April 27, 2020) (Honors Thesis, University of Pennsylvania) (on file with the Penn Libraries, University of Pennsylvania) (highlighting a few programs, including: wrap-around services after someone receives their eviction notice, counsel for tenants provided at the courthouse, rental assistance for tenant families facing eviction or already evicted); Maya Brennan, A Framework for Effective and Strategic Eviction Prevention, 41 Mitchell Hamline L. J. Pub. Pol’y & Prac. 37, 39 (2020) (highlighting housing courts, a right to counsel, and access to emergency financial assistance).
 Trekson, supra note 2 (authors were able to find 47 programs across the country however they included court-based programs intending to divert cases away from legal proceedings but not prevent them altogether).
 See generally, Menon, supra note 5 at 41 (discussing tenant’s rights literature materials); Ignacio Jaureguilorda et al., Eviction Prevention and Mental Health: A New Paradigm for Civil Justice Reform, Ctr. For Ct. Innovation at 9 (November 2021) (highlighting brief legal advice clinics that help tenants draft formal letters or secure repairs to their units).
 Brennan, supra note 5, at 52. Some also view tenant-friendly laws and court procedure to be preventative legal services. See, Brennan, supra note 5 (highlighting extended timelines to pay past due rent, protections against illegal lockouts, and rent withholding rights); Trekson, supra note 2 (highlighting local court procedural requirements providing for mandatory mediation before an eviction filing is accepted by the court and increased eviction filing fees).
 Menon, supra note 5 at 51.
 Trekson, supra note 2.
 Katherine Baicker, William J. Congdon & Sendhil Mullainathan, Health Insurance Coverage and Take-Up: Lessons from Behavioral Economics, 90:1 Milbank Q. 107, 111 (2012); Saurabh Bhargava & Dayanand Manoli, Psychological Frictions and the Incomplete Take-Up of Social Benefits: Evidence from an IRS Field Experiment, 105(11) Am. Econ. Rev. 3489, 90 (2015).
 Baicker et. al., Id.
 See generally, Alissa R. Gomez, Demand-Side Justice, 28 Geo. J. of Poverty L. & Pol’y 411 (Spring 2021).