Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, there was an eviction crisis in the United States. Estimates suggest landlords across the country file 3.7 million eviction cases each year — leaving considerable impacts on health and well-being in their wake.
The eviction process is regulated by a patchwork of state/territory and local laws and court rules that govern the judicial process, but little is known about the ways in which these laws affect the likelihood of evictions.
A new database, launched by the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) in partnership with the Center for Public Health Law Research, captures the entire eviction legal process, from pre-filing to post-judgment, in different communities around the country.
The data provide early insights, including:
- Only four states and Washington, D.C., have “just cause” statutes requiring landlords to disclose a clearly defined reason for removing a tenant from a rental property. In the vast majority of states, landlords are able to evict the tenant at-will.
- Only six states — Arizona, Michigan, Ohio, Oregon, Texas and Washington — require that eviction summonses include information on how tenants can access legal aid services.
- The majority of states/territories require that tenants pay a bond in order to appeal an eviction judgment. Those unable to pay cannot appeal.
- Court fees that landlords must pay to file an eviction vary widely across the country, from as little as $15 in Maryland to as much as $295 in Vermont.
The database consists of two datasets: the first covers eviction laws, regulations, and court rules that were in effect as of January 1, 2021 in all 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and eight U.S. territories. The second covers eviction laws, including those at the county and local level, in 30 jurisdictions in effect as of January 1, 2021. These areas were chosen to represent the demographic, socioeconomic and legal differences across the country.
This new tool is part of LSC’s ongoing The Effect of State & Local Laws on Evictions Study. Congress directed LSC to conduct the study to address concerns about the high rate of evictions in the country and the patchwork nature of local laws and regulations governing the eviction process prior to the emergence of COVID-19. Previous research briefs looked at the impact of different eviction protections offered to renters and examined the entire legal eviction process through the prism of a single jurisdiction in Tennessee.