How Many Evictions Are There?
An eviction may be filed with the court only after a landlord provides notice to the tenant and the tenant does not vacate the unit by the date specified in the notice. Chicago saw an average of more than 22,500 eviction filings per year between 2010 and 2019. Relying on eviction court records alone substantially underreports the number of forced displacements. Court records only provide information on formal evictions. No information is available about the untold number of informal and constructive evictions that occur due to illegal lockouts, denial of essential services, refusal to perform maintenance or repairs, intimidation, unconscionable rent increases, and coercive cash for keys deals. Many other renters are displaced by the city itself in Chicago’s building courts, when rental properties are condemned and vacated due to negligent landlords.
Who Gets Evicted?
Court records don’t provide any demographic information and we haven’t conducted any surveys, interviews, or court monitoring in tandem with this report. To begin exploring the question of who gets evicted, we can look at data from the US Census Bureau to make some inferences based on poverty and racial composition of Chicago’s Community Areas and Wards. Much more research will be needed to fully understand the effects of and interplay between race, poverty, place, presence of children, gender, age, and disability on rates of eviction.
Why Do Evictions Happen?
Most landlords filing for eviction also made claims for back rent, supporting the common belief that most evictions are for non-payment of rent. Eviction case filings do not distinguish between tenants who could not pay their rent and those who legally withheld their rent (for repairs or other allowed reasons). This distinction may only come to light if tenants are able to assert their rights in court. Unfortunately, online court records don’t provide the specific reason for the eviction filing. Beyond the existence of a rent claim or not, the court data provide little help for a deeper look into the reasons for eviction.
What Happens In Eviction Court?
Eviction cases typically result in tenants losing their homes, and as such, court outcomes are presented here as eviction orders (and are inclusive of an eviction order and/or a money judgment against a tenant). Most tenants receiving eviction orders moved out or were forced out by the sheriff. The outcomes in the other cases were primarily dismissals—with no judgment in either party's favor—though a small number (0.3%) of cases ended with judgments in tenants' favor, but this does not mean tenants got to stay. In our experience, in most dismissals tenants avoided receiving detrimental eviction orders by moving out "voluntarily" before their court date, or as required by a settlement agreement with their landlord.
Does Having An Attorney Matter?
Avoiding an eviction order is only one measure of the benefits of having an attorney. Attorneys assist tenants in asserting their rights as well as negotiating with landlords’ attorneys on the amount of back rent owed and amount of time tenants have to move in order to find replacement housing. Tenants without lawyers – often without knowing their rights – sign agreements they either don’t fully understand or feel pressured to accept in order to avoid what they believe will be an immediate eviction.
What About Legal Aid Attorneys?
Legal aid is free legal assistance to lower income people provided by nonprofit legal aid organizations, law schools, court-based services such as self-help centers, and legal information websites. Civil legal aid is "central to our notion of equal justice under the law.” - President Barack Obama.