Eviction destabilizes families and communities.
About 11,400 eviction actions were filed in the Twin Cities region in 2017. The vast majority are for nonpayment of rent, the result of extremely tight budgets with no room for an emergency. And while demographic information sis not collected at court proceedings, the majority of eviction filings in the Twin Cities occur in low-income neighborhoods of color and disproportionately affect communities of color.
Often, eviction puts families on a trajectory toward increasingly poor housing conditions or homelessness. The very filing of an eviction action, even if it does not lead to immediate displacement, blemishes the record of those in the filing and makes it much harder to find decent rental housing the next time. Research shows that housing instability and the threat of eviction lead to the same negative health outcomes for children as homelessness. Eviction can also lead to unemployment; one study shows that renters who were forced to move were between 11 and 25% more likely to lose their job, likely because their new housing was further away from work.
Everyone deserves a safe and stable home in a neighborhood of their choice. Simply put, we want to help families stay in their homes for longer. That’s why FHFund is working with a wide set of partners to accomplish a bold goal: reduce evictions in the Twin Cities region by 50%.
Watch: Teaming Up to Prevent Eviction in Minnesota
About the Ramsey County Housing Court Clinic
In 2017, FHFund and the McKnight Foundation convened a group of Ramsey County stakeholders over six months to identify opportunities to reduce evictions and increase housing stability. This group included judges, court administration, landlord and tenant representatives, legal aid attorneys, mediators, and county emergency assistance staff. This group agreed to a series of action steps, and the Ramsey County Housing Court Clinic was launched in July 2018 to implement them.
The project implemented a number of court process changes, including:
- Adding information to the court summons about the legal process and the services available to tenants
- Amending the court-issued settlement form to prompt parties to include an agreement to expunge the filing from the tenant’s record as part of the settlement agreement
- Allowing the affidavit of compliance asserting that all conditions of the settlement have been met to be filed by the tenant, in addition to the landlord. (Historically, the court only accepted these forms from the landlord, who has little incentive to file them.)
Additionally, the Court has made on-site meeting space available to a Clinic of service providers who help tenants avoid eviction. Now, all Housing Court calendars are fully-staffed with:
- lawyers who provide legal counsel for tenants
- mediators who attempt to reach an agreement between the tenant and the landlord
- county emergency assistance (EA) workers who provide on-site screening for emergency funds
- and social service providers who work with EA workers to bundle financial assistance options and provide ongoing support to households encountered through the Clinic.
We thank our partners: the Second Judicial District, Ramsey County Financial Assistance, Dispute Resolution Center, Neighborhood House, Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services, and the Volunteer Lawyers Network.
Expansion to Anoka and Dakota Counties
With the success of the Ramsey County pilot, we are expanding this approach to both Anoka and Dakota Counties. These three counties, in addition to Hennepin County, represent more than 90% of the evictions in the Twin Cities region. Anoka and Dakota Counties are now implementing some of the same court process changes, consolidating their court calendars, and planning to launch their own versions of the Court Clinic.
As we expand to additional counties, we hope to demonstrate that this approach is scalable for the entire region, and that lessons from this work can inform state and national approaches to eviction prevention.
How do we prevent evictions before Court?
Still, by the time tenants are defending against an eviction at Court, it is often too late to preserve the tenant-landlord relationship and the tenant’s housing situation. In many cases, a move-out, whether Court-ordered or as part of a settlement agreement, is hard to avoid. This is why we are working to create interventions earlier in the eviction process, before renters are summoned to Court. Research shows that on average, landlords wait 60 days after the first missed rent payment to file an eviction action. This is a critical window of time in which we can intervene with a problem-solving approach.
We are working to address some of the root causes of eviction – such as lack of emergency funds, habitability concerns, and tenuous landlord-tenant relationships – ahead of eviction filings. We support our legal aid partners as they address problematic leasing practices and habitability concerns that can lead to or present as eviction. And our mediation partners engage property owners and managers, as well as tenants, to educate them on mediation and persuade them to try mediation before filing an eviction action.
- A Head Start for Eviction Prevention: Reaching Families Before They’re in a Housing Crisis (Urban Institute)
- Four Lessons from Minnesota Can Inform the Eviction Crisis Debate (Urban Institute via Housing Matters)
- Experts Forum: What’s the Best Way to Stem Evictions? (Minnesota Lawyer)
- How Can We Prevent Evictions? (McKnight Foundation)
- The Illusion of Choice: Evictions and Profit in North Minneapolis (Center for Urban and Regional Affairs)