Almost every day I hear from housing providers worried about their future as eviction bans grind forward in the United States without any sign of real rent relief. I also hear from people pitching stories about eviction. However, many of these pitches come to me with the prevailing assumption that I am going to take the data point offered as a story hook for granted. Recently I got a pitch about the “10,000 evictions” that had been filed. Sometimes I’ll push back on these pitches. So does the Apartment Association of Colorado. Even though the United States is going through the worst economic crisis of the century, there still isn’t an “eviction epidemic.” Why isn’t that news?
Someone out there simply doing their job for an attorney that presumably represents defendants in eviction cases emailed me with the 10,000 evictions pitch.
“My experience is that most housing providers are doing ok; people are paying the rent,” I wrote back. “And for those who are having issues with tenants like the story I told about Katrina Bilella, are struggling.”
Don’t worry the public relations person wrote back, her client was talking about, “corporate landlords — they've filed 10,000 eviction actions in just five states (Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, and Texas).”
“Does he know anything about those actions?” I wrote back. “Why were they filed? And is he clear that those cases won't wind up necessarily in eviction.”
As often happens the shades went down and I stopped hearing from the person pitching the story. Why? Because it’s as we say today, “fake news.”
Andrew Hamrick is the General Counsel and Senior VP of Government Affairs for the Apartment Association of Metro Denver of the Colorado Apartment Association. He’s created a simple PowerPoint presentation about why the data often cited by advocates – and they are mostly eviction defense attorneys – to say that there is an impending eviction “tsunami.”
Before you take a look at Hamrick’s presentation and our discussion, let’s make something really, really clear. Eviction is a lot like divorce. Sometimes they happen. In the case of eviction it is exceedingly rare and like divorce a judge after a months long process is the only actor that can order an eviction. A notice on a door letting a resident know their rent is late is not an eviction, nor is a filing, nor is even an order if the resident settles and moves out.
Why do defense lawyers and others who want more control over private rentals need an eviction “epidemic” or “tsunami?” Because it panics elected officials into making rash decisions, supporting bad policy like global bans on evictions. What’s notable about these interventions is the way they are written, almost always offering a new defense against eviction claims. The finger prints of the defense attorneys are all over these measures; they’re not worried about ending eviction, they just want to win the eviction cases that show up before a judge.