A Vulnerable Community

Legal aid received a call from two community partners about the same problem: a housing complex where the tenants were suffering because the apartments were unsanitary and unsafe. Legal aid met the clients at their homes, and found that there were 8 units in this complex that all had similar problems suggesting that the landlord had not kept up on repairs: extensive mold around exterior walls of most rooms; water damage from leaking toilets; rusted heaters and ovens; leaking fridges; filthy old carpets; and extensive cockroach and spider infestation. The families did not ask for help or complain to their landlord because they didn’t know that they had a right to live in a safe home with a basic standard of livable repair. They were all refugees – an ethnic minority that was persecuted in their own country that fled to the United States for safety. For most of these clients, their only experience with anything like a landlord-tenant relationship was being in a refugee camp. Some feared that they would be attacked or killed if they complained to the landlord, and none felt they could afford to live anywhere else. Legal aid tried to work with the landlord. However, the landlord’s disregard for the tenants seemed deliberate – they did not step up and do the right thing, even when they were advised of their responsibilities. Legal aid then filed suit against the landlord and reached a settlement prior to court. The families immediately got some relief from these unacceptable conditions. There is still a long road ahead for them to acclimate and to feel safe, but positive steps have started – with legal aid’s help, their voices were heard and their rights respected.

Scroll to Top