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University of Michigan research finds 1 eviction case filed for every 6 rented housing units

Statewide data shows trends in evictions, makes recommendations

New research from the University of Michigan and Legal Services of South Central Michigan found trends within evictions and eviction filing rates between 2014 and 2018.
New research from the University of Michigan and Legal Services of South Central Michigan found trends within evictions and eviction filing rates between 2014 and 2018. (Pexels/Craig Adderly)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – The Michigan Eviction Project at the University of Michigan has found that eviction cases were filed for one in every six rental housing units within Michigan in 2018.

That’s an eviction filing rate of 17% according to a jointly conducted study done in partnership with Legal Services of South Central Michigan.

The study comes at a time when many unemployed tenants are increasingly worried about eviction over being unable to pay their rent due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In March, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued an executive order suspending evictions. That order was then extended to June 11 to further protect tenants.

But through data from the Michigan State Court Administrative Office, the Michigan Eviction Project found that the state already had high eviction filing rates before the pandemic and its economic fallout. Every year, around 40,000 Michigan households lose their homes due to court-ordered evictions, according to the research.

Using data from between 2014 to 2018, the research group found that eviction filing rates varied significantly between counties around Michigan.

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Washtenaw County had a filing rate of 11.3% -- about one out of 9 rental units -- but even within county lines filing rates were dramatically different. The city of Ann Arbor had an eviction filing rate of 2.2% but that rate jumped to 20.8% in the city of Ypsilanti and 33.6% in Ypsilanti Township.

An eviction filing is when a landlord files a legal complaint to begin an eviction case against their tenant.

Approximately 1,300 households in Washtenaw Country were evicted from their homes in 2018 based on sample data within the research paper. Within the same data, only 2.3% of tenants between 2014 and 2018 were represented by an attorney, which contrasts the 90.5% of landlords represented. The research group found that tenants with legal representation were more likely to have a positive outcome.

Supported by prior research and evidence, the research group states that eviction is not only a symptom of poverty but a cause of it. Evicted individuals are more likely to lose their job, self-report having fair or poor health and have higher rates of depression.

Additional statewide key findings within the Michigan Eviction Project working paper include:

  • Only 4.8% of tenants were represented by attorneys in eviction cases but 83.2% of landlords were represented between 2014 and 2018.
  • Higher eviction cases filing rates in census tracts with high numbers of single-mother households, mortgage foreclosures and people living in mobile homes.

The Michigan Eviction Project made recommendations in order to reduce evictions, such as the establishment and funding of eviction diversion programs and the right to counsel for tenants across Michigan.

Other recommendations include funding for affordable housing, enacting legislation preventing late fees until rent is 30 days late and limiting the fee amounts, as well as limiting access to eviction records

Find the full research paper here.

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