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Legal Assistance for Evictions: Impacts, Mechanisms, and Demand

11/28/2023 8:00 AM | Dawn Anastasi (Administrator)

A paper by Aviv Caspi and Charlie Rafkin

This is a 76-page paper out of Memphis TN by Stanford RegLab and MIT Economics. You may not want to read a 76-page paper, so some highlights from this paper follow. (The statements in bold are highlighted for your convenience, not highlighted in the paper.)

Seeking to assist tenants, 17 cities and four states recently passed “Right to Counsel” programs that guarantee defense attorneys in eviction cases.1 This expansion represents perhaps the most significant shift in U.S. eviction policy in the past two decades, aside from temporary pandemic-era measures. Yet whether attorneys actually stop evictions is unclear.

The RPA has stated in the past that attorneys may hinder the process, stretching out the time a tenant remains in the property and therefore increases the amount of money the tenant owes in the end. This can also have negative impact on good tenants because security deposits may need to increase to cover the increased risk a non-paying tenant bears.

Despite landlord- friendly eviction law, providing an attorney reduces tenant eviction judgment rates within 90 days by 27 percentage points (50%). However, attorneys’ effects persist only when they can connect tenants to other services. Once a concurrent emergency rental assistance program expires, effects on judgments at 90 days shrink by about 70% and are indistinguishable from zero. Attorneys have little effect on informal outcomes and bargaining.

In Wisconsin, such "other services" can be Ross IES on Milwaukee's northwest side, which offers Emergency Rent Assistance once a year to tenants who are facing eviction. Another service that assists tenants and landlords with bargaining (coordinating payment agreements, etc.) is Mediate Wisconsin. RPA had Mediate Wisconsin at our recent Trade Show and they have been speakers at prior events.

Approximately 40% of tenant applicants prefer a lawyer to receiving $1,000. It costs about $350 to hire an eviction defense attorney in Memphis.

So in essence, 60% of tenants prefer receiving money than hiring an attorney.

Rental Property Association of Wisconsin, Inc. (Formerly AASEW)
P.O. Box 4125
Milwaukee, WI 53204-7905
Phone: 414-276-7378

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