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Study of Seattle evictions shows disproportionate impacts to women, Black renters

CHS found a woman’s possessions spread across a parking strip off 12th Ave after a 2017 eviction (Image: CHS)

A newly released report from the commission that has Mayor Jenny Durkan’s ear on women’s issues in the city digs into a year’s worth of data around evictions in Seattle and shows that women tenants make up more than 80% of cases in which a small amount of money costs a renter their home in Seattle. The study of 2017 eviction cases in the Seattle city limits also shows how unfair the process is to Black renters who are evicted at a rate 4.5 times what would be expected based on Seattle demographics. Meanwhile, more than 17% of the city’s 1,218 evictions came here in the neighborhoods of Seattle City Council District 3 — the third highest total in the study. By ZIP Code, one of the largest clusters of evictions in the city in 2017 came in the 98122 area covering the Central District.

“Eviction proceedings, also known as ‘unlawful detainers,’ are scheduled every day in the King County Superior Court, and while this eviction machine is unseen by the majority of the city, the results reverberate far outside the courthouse,” the report from the Seattle Women’s Commission and the Housing Justice Project begins. “While a month of unpaid rent might be an inconvenience for a landlord, an eviction can mean life or death for a tenant. National research shows eviction is one of the leading causes of homelessness.”

The groups held a press conference to announce the findings — and the study’s conclusions on what to do about the impact of evictions — Thursday morning at Seattle City Hall. The Housing Justice Project is a homelessness prevention program providing legal services for low-income tenants facing eviction while the Seattle Women’s Commission is an advisory body to the mayor, city council, and City Hall departments.

Gina Owens talked about life as a single mother renting in Seattle and what happened when she and her daughter were evicted. “One emergency, one missed paycheck” is the difference between a home and living in the streets in Seattle, she said.

A full copy of the report is below but here are some of the main findings:

  • Women were more likely to be evicted over small amounts of money: of single-tenant household cases where a tenant owed $100.00 or less, 81.0% were women.
  • 51.7% of tenants in eviction filings were people of color; 31.2% were Black tenants, experiencing eviction at a rate 4.5 times what would be expected based on their demographics in Seattle.
  • While evictions occurred in each City Council District, more than half of all eviction filings (58.4%) occurred in Council District 7 (25.9%), Council District 3 (17.2%), and Council District 5 (15.3%).
  • 86.5% of eviction filings were for nonpayment of rent and of these, 52.3% were for one month or less in rent.

The study also found that evictions also come with steep financial penalties. “Tenants face steep financial costs resulting from eviction: the median court judgment was $3,129.73, including rent owed, non- rent charges, and legal costs,” the analysis concludes.

As for solutions, the report groups suggestions into three categories:

It will now be up to Mayor Durkan and the Seattle City Council to listen and sort out how best to put some of these solutions into motion.

A draft of the full report is below:

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18 thoughts on “Study of Seattle evictions shows disproportionate impacts to women, Black renters

  1. If tenants get extra time pay their rent, then landlords should get extra time to pay their mortgage, property taxes and utility bills. Landlords should also be allowed extra time to pay handymen, gardeners, plumbers and electricians for repairs to the property.

    To require landlords to accept “payment plans” and require them to increase the time period to cure non-payment of rent should also require that the Seattle City Council demand that mortgage companies also accept payment plans and increase the time period that landlords have to cure non-payment. The City of Seattle should also require that the King County Assessors office also allow “payment plans” for the landlord to pay their property taxes and increase the time period to cure non-payment of property taxes. The City Council should also require all utility company’s to offer “payment plans” and to increase the time period that landlords have to pay their utilities before they shut off the utilities for non-payment.

    • Thanks for picking up the baton. Sometimes it gets so old trying to address the constant stream of anti-landlord crap coming out in this city. Your response encapsulated my feelings perfectly.

    • All those concessions you mention would be nice, but even without those in place it’s frequently a financial win for all parties to set up a payment plan. Eviction takes time and money. While pursuing eviction a landlord can’t accept rent payments, basically creating a non-earning window for the property. This article addresses folks being evicted for small amounts of debt, $100 or less. In those cases it would be cost effective to come up with a payment plan.

      • I wonder how many of these evictions for less than $100 were for a fist lapse? Doesn’t seem to be broken down. I find it very hard to believe, especially for as much as a PITA and expensive undertaking it is, that there were many instances where a tenant was less than $100 behind in one month, and was evicted. More likely there were other reasons the tenant was evicted. Such as having been late or behind multiple times before, got caught up, and the landlord gave them notice if they got behind again, they’d be evicted. So they pay their rent on time for a month or two and then get behind again. This would probably show up in the data as “1 month behind” and maybe as little as $100. The data shows how behind they are *this time* and how much $ behind they are *this time*. Where’s the data about how many times in the past year the tenant was behind? Would that show more to the story? If you were a landlord with one rental property, would you want a tenant who was late or behind on rent every other month? I’d bet a lot of landlords just can’t carry a tenant like that. Having one rental property certainly makes you a lot better off than lots of people, but it certainly doesn’t make you rich.

    • Landlords can borrow money against their property. They can refinance to lower their monthly mortgage burden. They can negotiate taxes with the city. They are given 30, 60, or 90 day windows to pay contractors. All are technically “payment plans.”

      Being a landlord probably sucks, but don’t pretend like you don’t have a ton of options to handle any minor blip in any given month.

      • Where do you get this nonsense of “landlords can negotiate taxes”? You can’t “negotiate” taxes, you can only appeal a valuation of your property. And usually you lose, since most properties are actually a year or so behind in valuations. And most landlords don’t get “30, 60, or 90 day windowas” to pay contractors. The overwhelming majority have terms of “balance on completion”, if they’re *lucky* it’s 10 days, and if they’re a big building (which most landlords are not), they might get 30 days. I’ve worked with commercial contracts for more than 20 yrs, and even multimillion dollar companies rarely get even 60 days unless they’re somebody like Boeing. (Not even Microsoft gets 90 days). Most landlords DON’T have “a ton of options” when tenants don’t pay. They’re on a cash basis just like their tenants, they employ little-guy handymen/women for their maintenance, and those people can’t wait to get paid 30- 60- or 90 days any more so than YOU could wait to get paid 30, 60, or 90 days.

  2. Maybe Kshama Sawant can get up on her soapbox and scream about this too?

    I have a good solution for this problem:

    Pay your rent!

    Did you not read your lease? It is a contract and they clearly state you have to pay or get out.

    Sorry to tell you this but private landlords are not running a charity

    • Tenants should pay their rent on time and landlords should make repairs in a timely manner and maintain their properties in pristine condition.

  3. Maybe Comrade Sawant can front some micro-loans to the soon-to-be-evicted, to help stem this tide of default on contractual agreements.

  4. I worry that this headline will be interpreted as discrimination (and maybe that is the cause) but maybe comparing the income of “women, Black renters” as compared to the populate would better illustrate the situation?

    Is this about landlords being unfair or that demographic being unable to afford rent?

    • I also feel that title implies discrimination but in this case it’s really more income inequality.

      I agree with others about the slippery slope of delaying payments. That being said evections for less than $100 dollars owed should not even happpen. That is a ridiculous amount to be evicted for and in those cases more time should be granted to make up that difference. If there is a landlord out there that won’t be able to pay their property taxes or other bills over a $100 dollars then you are in some serious trouble. Also evicting them will only cost your more than $100 to get their stuff out and the apartment cleaned. I do see that an ulterior motive might be behind those.

  5. “National research shows eviction is one of the leading causes of homelessness.”

    And the Seattle “One-Night Count” shows that about five percent of Seattle homeless claim eviction as the precipitating event.

  6. >The study of 2017 eviction cases in the Seattle city limits also shows how unfair the process is to Black renters who are evicted at a rate 4.5 times what would be expected based on Seattle demographics

    Unfair? Are you implying that paying rent is racist?

  7. LOL @ “a month of unpaid rent might be an inconvenience for a landlord”.

    This kind of thinking is so dangerous and represents a serious lack of self awareness on the part of anyone who thinks they are owed a handout from a landlord. This is real life… not always easy of course. But if you don’t pay your rent you’ll need to move on down the road. Very simple and basic concept. Obviously the same holds true for the landlord… don’t pay the mortgage and the bank will ensure that they move on down the road too…

  8. I think the most succinct comment I’ve heard thus far was “but… rent *is* a payment plan….”
    It is then, isn’t it? You aren’t asked to pay up front for the entire time you plan to live in an apartment and certainly not all at once when you leave. You pay monthly – just like a…. yep… payment plan.

  9. I noticed that this article/study bases a lot of their statistics on evictions that have been “filed”.

    As a Landlord, I have “filed” many evictions which is the first step in forcing someone to get caught up in paying their rent or moving.

    On a very small percentage of evictions that I file ever result in an actual eviction, it usually causes the tenant to realize that there will be a consequence of not getting caught up in the rent and they usually do.

    So I think the study results are misleading since only a small percentage of filings actually result in someone moving since there are several steps between filing and someone being forced to move.

    I think the study should be looking at actual evictions, since I am guessing that most tenants that have an eviction filed for under $100 find a way to pay the amount due or the landlord never chooses to complete the eviction process.