From Floods to Funds: The Power of Pro Bono

COLE THALER | January 24, 2022


An Atlanta couple who turned to AVLF for assistance with a landlord/tenant dispute recently settled their lawsuit against their landlord and the property management company for $38,000.

The couple and their four children moved into an Atlanta apartment complex in early 2020. Their unit flooded on multiple occasions, with sewer water coming from windows, vents, and cracks in the wall, and even through the light fixtures in the ceiling. The couple repeatedly reported the problem to the property manager but it was never fixed.

The family had to move into a hotel; many of their personal possessions were destroyed in the flooding.

Ultimately, the flooding was so bad that firefighters called to turn off the water to the apartment told the couple that the apartment was unsafe. The family had to move into a hotel; many of their personal possessions were destroyed in the flooding. The couple contacted AVLF. Dana Richens of Smith, Gambrell & Russell, LLP accepted the case through the Saturday Lawyer Program. When informal attempts to resolve the dispute were unsuccessful, Attorney Richens filed a lawsuit. The matter later settled in court-ordered mediation.

“My clients’ concerns were consistently ignored by their landlord and the management company.”

“This case reinforced for me how important it is for people in need to have the access to legal representation that AVLF provides,” Richens said. “My clients’ concerns were consistently ignored by their landlord and the management company. It took the heft of legal representation through AVLF, and ultimately a lawsuit, to finally get their attention.”

AVLF is so grateful to Attorney Richens for agreeing to represent this vulnerable family and for seeing the case through to this substantial settlement. While nothing can erase the terrible experience they endured, the settlement funds will allow them to turn the page and start fresh in healthy, stable housing.

Help us secure safe and stable homes for our clients by donating today.

Cole Thaler

Co-Director, Safe & Stable Homes Project

Check out more from this author. 

Cole serves as the co-director of AVLF’s Safe and Stable Homes Project. He supervises the Saturday Lawyer Program and the Eviction Defense Program.

Cole grew up in the upper-middle-class area of Bergen County, New Jersey, but his family struggled financially.  In 1993, when Cole was sixteen years old, the bank foreclosed on the house he grew up in, and Cole and his family had to move to another town.  Cole attended Williams College, where he worked in the dining hall for four years, serving food to and cleaning up after his wealthier classmates.  During those years, Cole grew troubled by the stark class differences around him.  After graduating magna cum laude from Williams, Cole worked in food service, in a vet’s office, and for a lawyer before deciding to apply to law school.

At Northeastern University School of Law, Cole was an active member of the LGBTQ community in Boston and on campus.  Spurred by his experiences and observations of inequality and injustice, Cole decided to use his law degree to protect society’s most vulnerable.  From 2005 until 2009, Cole worked for Lambda Legal, helping transgender people across the country stand up for their rights in court.  After that, Cole followed his heart to serve people living in poverty – first in a rural setting through Georgia Legal Services Program, and, since 2014, in Atlanta through his work at AVLF.

Cole believes that knowledge is power; that small acts of kindness make a big difference; and that we must strive for our vision of liberation, even when it feels unattainable.  He shares his home with his husband and a friendly pack of rescue dogs and cats.