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Spring 2012 - Housing

Fuchs, Fred J

Credit Hours: 4 (Pass/Fail)  Course ID: 497C  Unique # 29690

Meeting Day(s)TimeLocation
T3:30 - 5:20 pm
Exams:  None
Registration Information
This course is restricted to upper division students only.
You must have at least 43 credit hours to register.
Clinic - APPLICATION REQUIRED. Application and/or instructions on how to apply for this clinic can be accessed on the web: http://www.utexas.edu/law/clinics/applications.php
** This course meets the Professional Skills requirement for graduation.

Description
Students in this clinic represent low-income families on their housing-related legal problems.  The primary focus of the work is helping clients to avoid homelessness and to obtain affordable housing.  The work requires representing clients in threatened evictions and foreclosures and on denials of public housing, subsidized housing, and section 8 voucher housing.  The work is especially interesting not only because of the compelling needs of the clients and the often egregious actions of the adverse party but because of the intersection of federal housing law, state landlord-tenant law and contract law.  Moreover, many clients are persons with mental disabilities; representation requires use of the Fair Housing Act and the reasonable accommodation provision -- an area of the law that is rapidly evolving.
Two examples of cases from recent clinics: 
(1) One student represented a public housing client who had been on the waiting list for a section 8 housing voucher for over four years but consistently passed over because she resided in public housing.  Congress has prohibited public housing authorities from penalizing families applying for a voucher because they live in public housing.  The student wrote the housing authority demanding a change in the policy and threatening suit.  The housing authority changed its policy -- benefiting a number of public housing families.  The client was subsequently awarded a voucher.
(2) Another student represents a client who had been denied a subsidized apartment on the basis of a sixteen-year old drug conviction.  The student wrote a demand letter to the owner’s attorney.  The attorney responded defending the owner’s policy and rejecting the efforts to resolve the case.  The student drafted a lawsuit petition and filed suit before the clinic term ended.  The suit subsequently settled with the landlord changing its policies and adopting reasonable criminal history “look-back periods.”
These are but two examples.  Other students have defended evictions, represented clients in section 8 voucher termination cases, and challenged rent calculations by subsidized owners and public housing authorities.
The work is fast-paced and fun, with a great deal of client and opposing party interaction.  There may also be some opportunities for real estate transactional work for students who prefer such work.  Most cases are completed during the semester, allowing the student to see the case from beginning to end.
Classes are held on Tuesdays from 3:30 p.m.  to 5:20 p.m.  at the offices of Texas RioGrande Legal Aid at 4920 North IH-35 (take Airport to 50th Street and go to IH-35 access road).  Students must also spend a minimum of eight hours a week working on their clients’ cases at Legal Aid.  Those hours must be spread over two different days during the week. 
Cases are reviewed and discussed in class.  Classroom lectures focus on tenant rights under federal housing programs and Texas landlord-tenant statutes.  Significant classroom time is also spent on how to represent clients with the highest possible quality and ethics. 
All credit is awarded on the pass/fail basis.  Participants must have completed at least forty-three semester hours in law.
Students register for Law 497C by filling out an application.  The application and instructions on how to apply for this clinic can be accessed on the web. 

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