A newly released study by Reinvestment Fund details the volume and geographic distribution of eviction filings in the city. The study updates our 2017 Evictions in Philadelphia research brief. Some of the highlights of the updated study’s findings:
- Eviction filings are dropping—Eviction filings dropped 10% from 2017 to 2018, sharpening a decline that began in 2015. While the number of filings is on track to rise slightly in 2019, volume remains well below the level of earlier years.
- Predominantly African American neighborhoods have seen more filings than others—Neighborhood racial makeup has a persistent, statistically significant effect on filing volume, independent of other key factors; net of differences in incomes, tenure mixes, and concentrations of public housing units, for each 10% increase in percent African American in the census tract, there are 7.6 more eviction filings.
- Most eviction court outcomes in Philadelphia are reached through default judgments and judgments by agreement—The most common eviction court outcomes in 2018 were: “Default Judgments” (31%) in which defendants failed to appear in court when their case was called, which typically results in granting the unit back to the landlord along with back rent and legal fees; Judgments by Agreement (32%), a practice unique to Philadelphia County which some say allows cases to move more quickly and collaboratively but also raise concerns about fairness when only the landlord has an attorney and no judge is involved; and withdrawals (25%) which may occur when a tenant paid the rent or vacated the unit before the court date.
- Only 10% of tenants had legal representation in court—According to court data reflecting when a formal appearance of counsel is entered in a case, three quarters of plaintiffs appearing in court had legal representation compared to just 10% of tenants, although some tenants seek legal information or advice prior to court through services provided by the Philadelphia Eviction Prevention Project’s (PEPP) Landlord/Tenant Legal Help Center, the Tenant Legal Aid Referral Line and several other legal service providers.