Connecting state and local government leaders
Research from the American Bar Association found that eviction mitigation programs are widespread outside of government and can be used beyond court filings to successfully enhance housing stability.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s moratorium on tenant evictions was lifted Saturday, leaving about 6 million renters who are behind on housing payments by several months at high risk for eviction.
When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last extended the moratorium through July 31, the agency indicated it would be the final extension. Congress approved $47 billion in emergency rent relief programs to help those who had fallen behind on payments, but state and local governments have been slow to design and implement rent relief programs.
The American Bar Association conducted research recently to understand what eviction prevention and diversion programs can do to help reduce filings and evictions and enhance housing stability. The ABA’s research found that:
- Tenants and landlords have noncompeting metrics of success for achieving “eviction prevention.” Notably, both include “housing stability” among their metrics.
- There is widespread buy-in for eviction prevention efforts, likely amplified by the pandemic’s financial and political pressures. Among landlords surveyed, more than 70% said they would be inclined to address tenant nonpayment issues outside of court.
- Eviction prevention and diversion efforts are widespread, especially outside of formal state and county governments. This suggests that informal relationships, networks and resources are in place to formalize and expand eviction prevention programs.
- Of the eviction prevention and diversion programs surveyed, the majority said they provide full or limited legal representation; a legal hotline or help desk; tenant rights and/or education programs; rental or cash assistance; and pre- or post-filing mediation services.
The ABA developed a checklist that it says can be used to develop any type of eviction prevention or diversion program. The questions include:
Who will be involved in the design, implementation and support of the program?
Tenants and landlords should always be included in the design, while experts in human, legal and financial needs should work in concert on implementation. Meanwhile, judicial and legislative decision-makers should champion and formalize eviction prevention and diversion programs to ensure ongoing use and support through legislation and court orders.
What services, resources and processes will the program include?
Holistic programs that employ a variety of resources, services and processes are more likely to provide landlords and renters substantive justice and procedural fairness. These should include some combination of at least two of the following: rental or cash assistance; access to legal representation; quality mediation; and self-help resources.
At what point in the eviction process will an intervention take place?
Upstream interventions, especially those that occur pre-filing, most effectively divert cases away from court. In more than 92% of eviction diversion programs ABA studied, courts referred parties to resources prior to, or immediately after, an eviction filing.
How will the program center tenants and landlords?
Using record sealing and credit protection services can empower tenants after an outcome has been reached. In addition, tracking data, feedback and the sustainability of outcomes can help tenants prevent future payment lapses by connecting them directly to governments or supportive services.
These considerations show how court-based and court-adjacent efforts can effectively coordinate services, promote housing stability, and prevent and divert evictions, the report says.
Finally, the report states that eviction and prevention programs should be supported by legislative efforts for universal basic income, increased affordable housing and automatic record sealing, and any practices should seek to support housing as “a human right.”
For more information about this report, click here.
Jean Dimeo is managing editor of Route Fifty.