Coastal Law adds Housing Rights Legal Clinic

Clinic provides Florida Coastal School of Law students opportunities to assist indigent clients with tenant issues

Low-income tenants facing housing-related legal issues can now get legal assistance from Florida Coastal School of Law students working out of the school’s new Housing Rights Legal Clinic. Caseloads largely involve indigent clients contesting possible evictions.

Professor Lois Ragsdale, who has more than 20 years of legal experience working with the indigent, oversees the clinic. She manages the students’ caseloads as they work with real clients whose households income falls within the federal poverty guidelines, while concurrently giving the students a hands-on understanding of the substantive law regarding the most current indigent housing issues.

“With the economy being in the state that it is and with the number of foreclosures of homes and even rental properties being way up, the demand for lower-income rental housing is far surpassing the supply,” Ragsdale said. “So many people are looking for subsidized options rights now, and the current tenants are having to fight extra hard to protect what little they have. They have nowhere else to go. The waiting list for other viable options is astronomical.”

Ragsdale added based on the nature and sheer number of cases being referred to the housing rights clinic, students are getting a taste of what it’s like to work at an accelerated rate.

“Even with this program being in its genesis, it’s not an option for us to get back to a client ‘some time next week,’” she said. “We need to be ready to move within 24-48 hours. It’s a much more rapid pace than what you might see in another legal clinic, but the level of hands-on experience our students are gaining can be extremely valuable.”

“The clinic will provide people in Jacksonville with free legal assistance and will provide our students a greater understanding of the housing rights,” said Ragsdale.

The program allows students the opportunity to interview and counsel clients, conduct fact investigation and pre-trial discovery, draft motions and pleadings, negotiate, appear in court and, in some instances, try cases.