Willkie Attorney Helps Keep Senior Citizen from Being Evicted

May 16, 2022

The Firm’s extern at Mobilization for Justice defeats landlord’s attempt to evict 80-year-old tenant.

Associate Sean Lavin, a Willkie extern at Mobilization for Justice (MFJ), a civil nonprofit legal services organization for low-income New Yorkers, recently helped keep an 80-year-old senior citizen from being evicted from his longtime home.

MFJ began assisting Mr. B in July 2020 when his landlord sought to evict him from his basement apartment. Their counsel included helping Mr. B apply for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) established by the government as part of the response to the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The landlord accepted Mr. B’s rental assistance and subsequently proceeded with efforts to evict him in March 2022.

Sean and the prior Willkie extern at MFJ, Gabriella Hassan, attempted to negotiate with the landlord, notifying his attorney that the ERAP legislation prohibited the landlord from evicting Mr. B for 12 months after the first rental assistance was received. The landlord, however, continued to push for eviction at the NYC Housing Court.

At oral argument, Sean successfully argued that the landlord was barred from evicting Mr. B under the terms of the ERAP legislation, leading the landlord’s attorney to withdraw his motion to restore the case to the court’s calendar and ultimately drop the lawsuit. As a result, Mr. B is able to continue living in his home of 17 years.

Willkie’s externship program with MFJ is one of four the Firm maintains with leading public service organizations. Participating associates serve on a rotating basis as full-time attorneys for four to six months at the organizations, gaining hands-on legal experience while significantly impacting lives. The Willkie extern at MFJ handles a full caseload of landlord/tenant matters in and out of housing court.

MFJ offers free legal assistance to low-income New Yorkers throughout New York City to resolve legal problems in the areas of housing; foreclosure; civil, disability and aging rights; bankruptcy, tax, consumer, employment, government benefits, immigration, and kinship care.