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Bar Association of San Francisco Member Benefits: Publications

Investing Small Amount of Time, Volunteer Lauren Halbany Helps Keep Low-Income Clients Housed


Laurel Halbany has been a dedicated volunteer in the Justice & Diversity Center’s (JDC*) landlord-tenant project since joining the panel in 2004. Halbany, a plaintiff’s attorney at Waters, Kraus, & Paul, represents workers and their families who were injured by asbestos or electronics industry toxins.

Laurel HalbanyHalbany finds her volunteer work particularly rewarding because it allows her to help people on a very direct and immediate basis. What is particularly rewarding is when she can invest a relatively small amount of time and effort and see that result in her client being able to stay in their home. As she says, “JDC clients are rarely in the kind of circumstances where it is trivial for them to just pick up and find an alternative place to live. It is very rewarding to know that you have made all the difference to someone who needed the help.”

One of Halbany’s most recent cases was representing a tenant who had lived in his apartment for 30 years. The tenant had been good friends with the landlord, had helped him renovate the building, and had no written lease because the tenancy agreement was a handshake deal. When the father died and the son inherited the building, thus taking over as landlord, he wanted to evict Halbany’s client.

However, since there was no lease, the landlord could not assert any false lease violations against the client, and because the building was located in a rent control jurisdiction, the landlord needed a just cause for eviction. By the time Halbany received the case, the landlord had been trying to evict her client on one pretext or another for years, and the situation had been discussed in the New York Times and the San Francisco Bay Guardian. After another year of fighting the baseless eviction attempts, Halbany’s client tired of the battle. The parties agreed to mediate a buy out of the tenancy and the client got ample money and time to transition to a more stable living environment.

Originally from Detroit, Michigan, Halbany moved to the Bay Area in 2000 and found the weather to her liking, so she decided to stay. When she isn’t working or volunteering for the Justice & Diversity Center, she spends time with her family and indulges in her favorite hobby, rebuilding and salvaging old computers.

To learn more about volunteering with the JDC’s Eviction Defense Project, please visit or email us at

*On March 14, BASF’s Volunteer Legal Services Program became the Justice & Diversity Center.

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