Pro bono spotlight: Attorneys help disabled client start new chapter

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  • | 12:00 p.m. August 15, 2016
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Pro bono attorneys Lanny Russell and Joseph Rogan of Smith Hulsey & Busey accepted a pro bono landlord-tenant matter.

In a combined total of 14 hours, they provided a disabled woman with a new chapter of stability and independence.

The woman sought help in securing a subsidized housing voucher from the Jacksonville Housing Authority.

Jacksonville Area Legal Aid was able to get the voucher and the client was able to move into an affordable apartment.

However, she was not able to get the utilities turned on in her name at her new place because of an outstanding water bill.

The woman had a past due JEA balance because of a water leak at her old apartment. The leak occurred because of a break in underground pipes. Her former landlord was responsible for repairing the pipes.

The landlord eventually fixed the pipes, but the client was left with a balance of about $1,600 on her JEA account even after the utility forgave $1,700.

The woman was unable to pay the balance on her account and her power was disconnected prior to her move.

Without air-conditioning in the middle of Florida’s summer, the humidity in the apartment caused mold to damage her furniture.

She moved into her new home without many of her personal belongings. Additionally, the client’s caregiver had to connect the utility service in the caregiver’s name while the client resolved the outstanding JEA balance.

The client again sought help. This time to compel her former landlord to pay the balance of the JEA bill so the client could register utility service in her name again.

The client also sought compensation for personal property lost due to mold.

After demand, however, the former landlord claimed the client owed $1,500 in past due rent, which she described as the client’s contribution to the Section 8 rent.

Russell and Rogan agreed to help. The result they achieved for their client gave her a fresh start in her new home.

“We were able to get the JEA bills covered in full by the landlord, a recovery for our client’s personal property and a release from the landlord for any past due rent,” Russell said. “She will be able to pay JEA and move on with her life without fear of collections from JEA or a suit from the landlord.”

It is easy to add up the approximate total dollars the landlord claimed she owed.

However, it is impossible to quantify the real value of Russell and Rogan’s achievements on their client’s behalf.

The total dollars are very significant to a disabled person on a fixed income. It is certainly money that matters and makes a difference.

How do we quantify the value of their client’s ability to move on with her life? How do we quantify the relief she enjoys because her former landlord has no cause against her? These benefits are priceless.

Russell and Rogan’s work made a significant difference. They have given their client the opportunity to enjoy her new home and start a new chapter.

Attorneys interested in assisting a pro bono client or getting involved in 4th Judicial Circuit pro bono projects should email [email protected]