Housing Work Inspired UC Law SF Student to Attend Law School

UC Law SF student Rachel Pyle ’24 was inspired to fight for tenants’ housing rights after working as an affordable housing policy consultant before law school.

UC Law SF student Rachel Pyle ’24 spent nearly five years working as an affordable housing consultant in Sacramento, an experience that she said inspired her to attend law school so she could fight for tenant housing rights.

“While my work was rewarding and allowed me to gain experience in affordable housing programs, I wanted to be in a place where I could actively advocate for tenants and their needs,” she said.

Pyle gained more experience last summer when she interned at Open Door Legal, a San Francisco nonprofit that offers low-cost and pro bono legal assistance. Under the supervision of a housing rights attorney, she interviewed new clients, researched housing regulations and policies, and wrote demand letters to landlords on behalf of tenants.

“This experience opened my eyes to how privileged we are to have access to and knowledge of the law and the importance of having access to legal help,” she said.

Rachel Pyle ’24 helped tenants with housing rights issues during her summer internship with Open Door Legal.

Pyle’s internship with Open Door Legal was funded by a Hastings Public Interest Law Foundation (HPILF) grant. HPILF gives grants to law students who take otherwise unpaid internships at non-profit organizations and government agencies. The grants are made possible by money raised by the foundation and funds donated by alumni and allocated by Chancellor & Dean David Faigman. Pyle now serves as a board member of HPILF.

During her internship, Pyle said tenants told her about unscrupulous tactics landlords used to sidestep rent control laws and tenant protections in one of the most expensive rental markets in the country – San Francisco. Those tactics included decreasing services to tenants, shutting off utilities, constantly entering a tenant’s home without notice, and forcing a tenant out by falsely claiming the owner is moving into the unit – only to put it back on the market for higher rent.

“Because housing is so crucial and not many tenants know their rights, some tenants will take the smallest suggestion to move out as a requirement,” Pyle said.

Beyond researching San Francisco landlord-tenant laws and policies, Pyle also investigated statutes pertaining to renters’ privacy rights, subsidized housing policies, and relevant case law established by California state courts. She said, “When it comes to housing defense and tenants’ rights, it’s a problem that the case law is so limited. It’s the nature of housing — typical renters, including myself, don’t have the resources to have drawn out cases.”

Pyle, who holds a bachelor’s degree in international relations from UC Davis, is also involved with the Hastings International and Comparative Law Review and is a board member of the Hastings Human Rights and International Law Organization.

Through her work with Open Door Legal, Pyle said she gained valuable knowledge about tenant-landlord laws and learned how to apply property laws in real-life situations, “Overall, I think this experience will make me a more compassionate, well-rounded, and thoughtful attorney in the future.”

Pyle said she is interested in contract development and consumer protection but keeping an open mind about the type of law she wants to practice after her expected graduation in 2024.