Tenants in Kansas City can now take advantage of the city’s new Tenants Right to Counsel law, that provides free legal representation for residents facing eviction.    

The KC Tenants Right to Counsel law passed in December 2021, but it took until June 1 for the City to get the infrastructure and process in place to implement the legislation.  

Historically, most tenants facing eviction in Kansas City walked into the court room alone.  Now, they’ll have representation. In general, the legal counsel will either help tenants finds a resolution to avoid being evicted, such as establishing a payment plan or scheduling a date to vacate that might possibly extend beyond the legal time required.    

Tenants in Missouri have a few legal defenses against eviction that legal counsel can help the tenant make their case regarding.  Those legal defenses include: the landlord did not maintain the rental property and is not up to housing and building codes or the landlord illegally discriminates against them based on religion, race, gender, family status, disability or some other unlawful form of discrimination. The free legal counsel can help tenants pursue these counter charges.  

How it Works  

The City has allocated $700,00 and contracted with three legal organizations to work with the tenants. The agencies are: Legal Aid of Western Missouri, Heartland Center for Jobs and Foundation, and The University of Missouri-Kansas City. 

The Heartland Center will provide training for all attorneys involved in Right to Counsel program, which component advocates say is key to the success of the program.  

As recommended by those organizations, intake for tenants needing services will go through a navigator program instead of reaching out directly to the organizations. The navigator will assign the tenants cases to one of these organizations. 

Navigators can be reached by telephone at (816) 474-5112 or apply online at: https://gkcassistanceprogram.org/evictiondefense/ 

Navigators will run all intake required to provide information for Kansas Citians facing eviction in Jackson, Clay, Platte or Cass counties.  Services are available regardless of the tenants’ incomes.  

To further help in the implementation of the program, the City is hiring an administrator for the program and the law requires the establishment of a Tenant’ Right to Counsel Advisory Committee to oversee the program. 

The committee is required to be composed of seven voting members who are tenants and a non-voting representative from each of the participating legal services organizations.

To help make tenants facing eviction aware of the new program, the city will reach out to tenants who are facing eviction with information about the program. 

Expected Impact 

Kansas City is part of a growing trend of cities across the country who are provided free legal counsel to tenants facing eviction. Many of the cities are implementing the program as a way to help combat the growing problem with homelessness. 

While it is too soon to see the results in Kansas City, the results have been favorable in many of the 12 other cities that had implemented the program as of December 2021. In Hennipen County Minnesota, county seat of Minneapolis, the results were overwhelmingly positive in a 2018 study. They found:   

Fully represented tenants won or settled their cases 96% of the time, 

Clients receiving limited/brief services won or settled 83% of the time, 

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas agreed, that this program is an important part of an arsenal of programs the City is implementing to reduce houselessness. 

“This is another important step in our work to protect renters and help folks stay in their homes. Still, there is more work to be done. I thank all in our community who have worked with the City Council on advancing this important initiative.”  

Lucas thanked the many community organizations and individuals who rallied for the passage of the legislation.  

“Thank you to leaders at KC Tenants for identifying a serious unmet need in our city and for shining light on one of the biggest challenges and traumatic events our residents face evictions,” said City Manager Brian Platt. g insecurity in Kansas City.”

In 2016, data from the Eviction Lab at Princeton showed Kansas City as the 65th city out of nearly 4,000 in the country for evictions. Kansas Citians were being evicted at a rate of 10 households per day, for an annual eviction rate of four evictions out of every 100 rental properties.


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Simone Garza

Simone Garza was a reporter in our Kansas City office. In addition to general reporting on Kansas City’s African-American community, she reports on economic inclusion for the African American community....