Posted: July 11th, 2023
Wake Forest Law’s Medical-Legal Partnership (MLP) Clinic, under the leadership of Associate Dean Allyson Gold, recently worked with a local family to obtain adequate, affordable housing and restore their security deposit.
The MLP Clinic works in collaboration with healthcare providers and Legal Aid of North Carolina to identify legal issues that negatively contribute to the health of low-income patient-clients and develop a comprehensive, interprofessional strategy to overcome barriers to health justice.The Clinic provides experiential learning opportunities for students while also providing legal assistance to people in need.
When the MLP Clinic began representing Mrs. M and her family in Spring 2022, the family was struggling to pay rent. Clinic students helped the family apply for Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) funds under the American Rescue Plan Act and, while the ERA funds were pending, negotiated with the landlord to avoid the filing of an eviction action.
Clinic students were hyper-aware that an eviction filing on the family’s record would jeopardize their ability to find rental housing in the future and that the ERA funds were a temporary solution to their long-term housing need. As such, Clinic students helped the family apply for government subsidized housing as well.
In January 2023, the family moved into new market-rate rental housing. However, the family, which now included a six-month-old baby, discovered that there was no functioning electricity or heat due to an improper meter.
Clinic students sent notice to the landlord and property manager informing them that the failure to provide essential services terminated the rental agreement, and that the family was reconveying possession of the property. The Clinic also demanded the immediate return of the family’s security deposit. During this time, Clinic students discovered that the family had moved up the waitlist for subsidized housing and had a safe and affordable apartment waiting for them.
As the landlord had not yet returned the security deposit, Clinic students worked with a local service organization to secure funds for the deposit on the subsidized home, which allowed the family to move into the new unit.
At a small claims court hearing on April 27, 2023, Hannah Norem (’23) and Amanda Spriggs Reid (’23) argued that the constructive eviction entitled the family to a return of the full amount of the security deposit and moved for a default judgment after the defendant failed to appear. The judgment for the entire security deposit, including attorney fees, entered in favor of the family.
“I am so proud of the work the students did in this case,” says Professor Gold, who serves as the Associate Dean for Experiential Learning and the Director of the MLP Clinic. “Not only did they meticulously and persuasively argue the law and facts to the judge, but they provided holistic representation to help the family achieve stability.”