Rural Renting: An Empirical Portrait of Eviction


In this paper, we examine eviction from the renter’s perspective. Specifically, we seek to understand what factors influence the eviction process—and the likelihood that it will result in a judgment against a renter—once a property owner initiates legal proceedings. To this end, we used records from 202,572 eviction cases filed by landlords in Kentucky courts. We employed statistical modeling to determine what impacted whether those cases ultimately ended in a judgment of eviction against a renter.

Many of our findings were novel, and they were staggering. We found that, holding all else equal, those living in rural areas were more than 55 percent more likely to experience a judgment of eviction just by virtue of where they lived. We also found that those living in jurisdictions that had adopted renter-friendly policies (URLTA) were more likely to avoid a judgment of eviction—even though these laws do not impact the eviction process itself. Additionally, we found that renters who lived in the same ZIP code and/or state as their landlord were significantly more likely to resolve their case prior to judgment.

Collectively, these findings, and others, have implications for eviction policy. They suggest that we must pay more attention to rural courts and the factors that lead to disparate outcomes in them. They call for programs that encourage collaboration between property owners and home renters, such as mediation and other types of eviction diversion. These results also must lead to further study of the time period between when an eviction case is filed and when it is concluded to more fully understand how the various parties approach decision-making with this legal process. Throughout it all, the needs and voices of rural renters must be a part of the ongoing conversation.

Read at SSRN.