Skip to main content

Renter Protections During Covid-19: Update on Eviction Restrictions and Relief Funds

Speaker(s): Eric Dunn, Mariel Block
Recorded on: Apr. 5, 2021
PLI Program #: 323920

Mariel Block is a Staff Attorney with the National Housing Law Project, where she advocates for the preservation of federally subsidized housing developments and the housing rights of survivors of domestic violence. Prior to joining NHLP, Mariel was a Hearing Examiner with the City of Berkeley’s Rent Stabilization Board, where she conducted Rent Board and Berkeley Housing Authority administrative hearings. Prior to working with the Rent Board, Mariel represented low-income tenants for six years as a housing legal services attorney, practicing in both LSC and non-LSC legal services agencies in Northern California. She is a 2017 alum of the Shriver Center’s Racial Justice Training Institute.

Eric Dunn joins the National Housing Law Project as the Director of Litigation. Eric is a national expert on tenants’ rights and consumer law issues. He is known for high-impact advocacy on matters affecting subsidized housing tenants and families struggling to access housing because of criminal and eviction records.  Prior to NHLP, Eric was an attorney with the Virginia Poverty Law Center, the Northwest Justice Project in Seattle, and the Legal Aid & Defender Association of Detroit.

Some of Eric’s most significant subsidized housing cases include Tina Hendrix v. Seattle Housing Authority and Shepherd v. Weldon Mediation Services, Inc., which both lead to significant improvements in the administrative hearing protections for families facing termination from federally subsidized housing. Another case, Resident Action Council v. Seattle Housing Authority, vindicated the free speech rights of public housing tenants, protecting their right to post signs on their doors and windows. Downtowner Tenants Association v. Seelig stopped the owner of a HUD-subsidized building from raising rents or displacing tenants after the Rent Supplement contract expired, forcing a sale to a new owner who maintained the building as affordable housing.

On rental housing access, Eric’s most important victories include Simmons v. T.M. Associates Management, Inc., which found that a landlord may have a duty to overlook a rental applicant’s disability-related criminal conviction as a reasonable accommodation under the Fair Housing Act. Additionally, in Handlin v. On-Site Manager, Inc., the court upheld a rental applicant’s right to obtain a full and complete disclosure of a tenant-screening report that a landlord obtained about the applicant. Eric also was a lead counsel in Smith v. Wasatch Property Management, Inc., which challenged a landlord’s policy of categorically denying admission to applicants with eviction records, by alleging an unlawful discriminatory effect on African-American women. Smith, which settled in 2017, is believed to be the first fair housing case ever filed based on the discriminatory impact of eviction records.