Zero Eviction

An app that quickly connects renters who are facing eviction to the right legal resource.

My role

User research and design lead 

Worked with four law students and one UX student

Key Challenges

Unraveled the multilateral and time-sensitive process of eviction

Seamlessly integrated the solution into the rigid legal system

Client / Duration

Lex Lab Hackathon / 1 week 

Challenge

How might we help low-income renters navigate the eviction notice process and take advantage of the legal resources?

Eviction is one of the main causes of why people become homeless. The process is fast and complicated. Missing a step can have severe consequences for the renter.

Furthermore, evictions are often related to other problems, such as unemployment, so they impact the most vulnerable people in society.

Outcome

An accessible app that guides renters through the eviction process and minimizes the steps to be connected with a legal organization.

Zero Eviction breaks down the process into bite-size chunks and provides the renter with a custom-made document outlining their rights, what documents they need, and what their next steps are.

This has the additional benefit of helping charities and advice centers pro-actively filter renters and save time at the initial stages of the process.

In developing this app, I’ve gained experience in leading the research and design process under a rigorous and complex legal system. I have also learned the IRAC method (issues, rules, analysis, and conclusion) from Law students and applied it to UX research.

Used the law exam-taking technique in a UX research process.

Research

Consulted pro bono partner to map out the steps that renters need to take to seek legal help.

We applied the IRAC method(issues, rules, analysis, and conclusion) to identify what are the influencing factors in this journey.

An IRAC inspired UX research process
An IRAC inspired UX research process
My attempt to map out the current system

Findings

Long intake process and legal non-profits are overwhelmed by the number of queries.

The current system asks renters to fill out a very long intake form before they can receive help. Questions in the form are related to:
  • Demographic
  • Living situation
  • Rental agreement specific info
  • Track discriminatory evictions such as habitability, disability, etc.

“We receive about 100 calls per day, only 20 will receive a callback. Out of those 20, only the qualified renters will eventually receive help from an attorney. “

– Attorney M from API Legal

Furthermore, some organizations conduct their own legal check to vet their potential clients. This means that renters have to contact multiple non-profits before finding one that is willing to take on their case.

Pain points

Based in the findings, I've identified pain points for various stakeholders.

Stakeholder and painpoint map

Solution

One stop app that connects renters to the right organization.

Zero Eviction(ZE) aims to partner with organizations to fully understand each organization’s sets of criteria for offering aid.

Therefore, users only need to fill out one application, then the app helps to identify which organization will be most likely/guaranteed to take their case given their personal criteria.

one stop service

Breaks down the intake process into a simple workflow.

ZE helps avoid overloading a user with information or questions by translated complex legal language to simple, plain English. Breaking down confusing legal definitions into multiple questions means tenants can easily navigate what would have been a daunting process.

Helps organizations manage their workload by pro-actively filtering the renters and flag the urgent cases.

This allows more effective management of the new clients and ensures that the society’s most vulnerable can access the help they need and assert their legal rights.

Click here to get the full experience of the prototype on Figma.

Feedback from 3 potential users and 2 pro bono partners

The desire for face-to-face-like support.

“Users may not want to upload it (the document)…They may want to show the lawyer in person.” – User S.

Initially, we implement the attorney’s suggestion on providing sample templates on the app so that users don’t have to wait for two days to receive a standard response from them. 

However, users expressed that they still would like to get help from a human. They questioned how reliable the app is, and they don’t trust themselves to get it right. They are willing to use legal tech, but only if they know there is a person they can trust on the other side of it.

Embedding time elements into the design.

“How long does this app take? If I got a 3-day notice, I’d be wanting to pack my stuff and get the kids ready.” – User Z.

In the first iteration, we have forgotten that on these time-sensitive matters, users expect a guaranteed response date. The user wants a time frame instead of ambiguous reassurances such as “shortly.” They would like to know if they will receive a call from the attorney today, in the next hour, etc. 

The success of this app heavily depends on legal organizations' willingness to adapt.

Next step

Partner with organizations

If we continue this project, our next step would be to partner with legal organizations. The goal is to understand their legal check process and how do we can integrate Zero Eviction into their current client intake workflow.

Publication: Wang, Julia. “A Hack Homelessness 2020 Recap.” Taking Our Design Challenge Virtual!, UC Hestings, 19 Nov. 2020, lexlab.uchastings.edu/blog/taking-our-design-challenge-virtual.