Report details dramatic effect of having counsel in Seattle evictions

09/01/2018, Report, Housing - Evictions

A new report, Losing Home: The Human Cost of Eviction in Seattle, was released by the Seattle Women’s Commission and the Housing Justice Project of the King County Bar Association.  It found that a disproportionate number of people of color are evicted and that “Nearly 90 percent of the report’s interviewees experienced homelessness after being evicted, which can be a life-or-death matter.”  The report then found that:


- Tenants with counsel were nearly twice as likely to retain possession;

- More than half of the represented tenants received a positive settlement or stipulation, compared to 14.3% of the pro se tenants.  

- Represented tenants were 2 to 3 times more likely to obtain a payment plan, and where such a plan was established, tenants were able to follow through on terms of payment and remained housed 63.5% of the time.  This statistic shows how lawyers can do really important things other than simply get the eviction dismissed.

- Over 80% of all of the orders of limited dissemination (which controls whether the eviction shows up in landlord background searches) were obtained by tenants who had counsel.


The report notes, though, that reports from other cities such as NYC and Boston showed more dramatic results when counsel was present, especially with respect to retaining possession. The report suggests this may be due to limited rental assistance programs and weak tenant protections in Seattle.  It observed that in contrast in NYC, "the Housing Help Program provided benefits advocacy to tenants in the Bronx, in addition to legal representation, in order to help a tenant obtain rent arrears assistance, financial subsidies, and other forms of financial assistance.135 Advocates in the program procured rent arrears assistance or subsidies for 471 of 1,059 households assisted in the study in order to prevent eviction for 86% of those households. Further, tenants in the Housing Help Program had the opportunity to work with a social worker who assisted clients with budgeting, counseling, and benefits advocacy.”


The release of the report was covered by Seattle Weekly and Crosscut.