New Research Finds 2.7 Million Households Receive Eviction Filings Annually

A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), “Estimating Eviction Prevalence across the United States,” offers new estimates of the rates of eviction filings and number of households threatened with evictions from 2000 to 2018. Using both court-issued records and proprietary data, the authors of the study model eviction filing rates in each state and find that between 2000 and 2018, 3.6 million eviction cases were filed annually on average. Evictions were particularly prevalent in the southeastern states, where tenant-landlord laws tend to favor landlords. Additionally, states that required landlords to provide tenants with eviction notices had significantly fewer filings than states with no such requirement.

The researchers requested eviction records from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, but due to data limitations within some states – including the lack of record digitization and legal hurdles for requesting data – only 19 states submitted data. To supplement court-issued data, the researchers purchased eviction record data from LexisNexis.

The study finds that between 2000 and 2018, landlords across the country filed 3.6 million eviction cases per year, on average. The number of households receiving eviction filings was 2.7 million per year, on average. The number of households receiving eviction filings is less than the total number of filings because some landlords file repeatedly for the same households. Though the number of annual evictions increased from 3 million to 3.65 million between 2000 and 2018, the eviction filing rate has decreased due in part to the growing number of renter households, many of whom are older and have higher incomes. The percent of renter households threatened with eviction peaked between 2005 and 2008 at approximately 7.5% and has decreased in recent years to approximately 6%.

The study finds that evictions are most common in southeastern states. This finding contradicts common assumptions that eviction filings are most prevalent in high-cost cities or gentrifying neighborhoods. Instead, the research indicates the importance of state policy in influencing eviction filing rates. States that require landlords to provide eviction notices to tenants in advance of filing saw significantly lower eviction filing rates than states without such requirements. The requirement that a notice be provided to tenants one to three days prior to filing was associated with a 63.1% decrease in annual eviction filings when controlling for county-level demographics and other state-level eviction requirements.

The authors point to Maryland as a state exemplifying the ways state eviction policies can incentivize or discourage landlords who are considering filing evictions. In 2018, Maryland’s eviction rate was 69.6% – an extreme outlier rate compared to the national average of nearly 8%. Landlords in Maryland have only to pay a fee of $15 to $25 to file for an eviction, and evictions can be filed immediately after non-payment of rent. Moreover, the state does not require that tenants be notified before the filing. The authors posit that this policy landscape encourages landlords to file evictions often and repeatedly because doing so can serve to threaten tenants who are behind on rent payments.

The data compiled for the study is publicly available on the Eviction Lab website and will likely open the door for more research on the prevalence of eviction and the policies most likely to decrease eviction filings. The authors suggest that future research should focus on how other policies, such as fair housing laws and right to counsel, affect eviction filing patterns.

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