Michigan Evictions: Trends, data sources, and neighborhood determinants

May 19, 2020

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May 2020

Robert Goodspeed, Kyle Slugg, Margaret Dewar, of University of Michigan

Elizabeth Benton, Legal Services of South Central Michigan

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Abstract

Each year, landlords file nearly 200,000 eviction cases in Michigan and around 40,000 Michigan
households lose their homes as a result of court-ordered evictions. The Michigan Advocacy Program’s
attorneys represent thousands of these households each year and see first-hand the devastating effects of eviction on their lives.

Nationally, a growing body of research has documented these detrimental effects on individuals, households, and neighborhoods. This evidence suggests that eviction is not merely a symptom of poverty but also a cause of it. People who experience eviction are more likely to lose their jobs, experience increased rates of depression, and rate their health as fair or poor. Households who move as a result of an eviction, instead of through choice, move to poorer, higher-crime neighborhoods, and are more likely to experience problems with their new housing like broken appliances, exposed wires, or lack of heat.

Moreover, the consequences of eviction are felt most acutely by already-disadvantaged groups, deepening social inequality. Compared to other groups, African-American women, families with children, and Hispanic households in mostly white neighborhoods experience a disproportionately high number of evictions. Victims of domestic violence appear to face elevated rates of eviction after controlling for household and neighborhood factors, due to nuisance citations generated by incidents of domestic violence.

Finally, the research shows that even eviction cases that do not result in evictions are harmful to tenants. These filings can result in additional costs and fees to the tenant and leave records that make it more difficult for households to find future housing. Recent research shows that some landlords, such as certain types of corporate landlords and owners of multifamily buildings, may be driving up the number of these filings through serial evictions—that is, the practice of filing multiple eviction cases against the same tenant in the same year.

Our research project builds on this emerging scholarship to better understand the prevalence, patterns, and causes of evictions in Michigan. The project involved analyzing statewide case filing data and data collected from a random sample of eviction case records in Washtenaw and Lenawee counties. The report provides a detailed overview of Michigan eviction law and policy recommendations for local courts, municipalities, funders, and state government.

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