Rent-Paying Tenant

Mr. Goodnow is a single parent who works two jobs and pays his rent on time every month


Mr. Goodnow is a single parent who works two jobs and pays his rent on time every month. He is very attached to his apartment, as it is in relatively good condition, is close to his child care provider (his mother) and is within walking distance to his places of employment. However, when his landlord loses the building to foreclosure, the bank (through its mortgage servicing company) initiaties the common practice of evicting all tenants in order to ready the property for sale. As the pace of foreclosures in Massachusetts increase, more cases like Mr. Goodnow’s are cropping up, causing tenant dislocations and neighborhood blight. What are a lawyer’s options when confronted with an undesirable and unfair situation? Should the lawyer work to change the laws, change the industry practice of evicting rent-paying tenants in the case of foreclosure, encourage the client to engage in community activisim, or simply focus on the client’s immediate best interests? What are the ethical considerations in a case like this?

Table of Contents

This problem set consists of four parts:

  • Part 1-The Problem presents the problem and describes the client’s issue and setting
  • Part 2-The Relevant Law gives students an overview of the law relevant to the problem
  • Part 3-Ethics & Law Reform is the second part of the problem and details what happened next with the client’s case
  • Part 4-Ethics & Theory gives students selected state rules of professional conduct and links to a scholarly article that pertain to the possible conflicts when working for social reform while also protecting and representing the client’s interests.

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Learning Objectives

  • Begin to develop a systematic approach to problem solving when faced with an unresolved issue or new situation.
  • Discuss what options lawyers have-including non-legal and law reform strategies-when the legal rights of a client (or range of potential clients) are limited.
  • Discuss and define the ethical issues that arise when helping the client while also thinking about how to use the client’s situation to obtain broader law reform.

Subjects Covered

Law Reform, Conflicts of Interest, Ethics