Written testimony, November 14, 2019 – My name is Curtis Shiver, I’m a lifelong resident of Philadelphia, and I am here today to testify in support of the right to counsel legislation. In 2017, my family and I faced a nightmare. Our three-bedroom rental home in North Philadelphia had numerous problems, including a lack of heat, spotty electricity, and leaks. But the worst part came when our sewage system failed. Raw Sewage flooded the first floor and kitchen. While plumbers looked at the issue, they could do nothing about it because the property owners needed to give their permission for workers to repair the damage. Only after the property was marked unfit for human habitation did the property management do anything about the situation. While limited repairs were being made, my wife and I had to stay in a hotel for weeks while our kids lived with family members closer to their school.
Because of these inhospitable conditions, I withheld my rent until all the repairs were made, and my landlord responded by filing an eviction complaint. In eviction court, Mike Carroll from Community Legal Services represented my family and got the case against me withdrawn. Later, the Public Interest Law Center helped my family reach a monetary settlement with my former landlord which allowed us to buy a home. None of this would have happened if I had not had legal representation. Unlike thousands of other tenants facing evictions, I had the opportunity to be represented by lawyers. My situation is not uncommon, but the access to legal counsel for tenants is rare. The Right to Counsel legislation will ensure that tenants like me are able to fight unfair eviction cases. I urge City Council to vote in favor of this bill.