Eviction Lab updates September 22, 2020

Preliminary Analysis: Shifts in Eviction Filings from the CARES Act to the CDC Order

  • Peter Hepburn and Renee Louis
  • The Eviction Lab

Two major eviction-related shifts have occurred in the U.S. over the last month.

First, protections that the CARES Act had provided to renters began to be dismantled at the end of August. The CARES Act expired on July 25th, but it mandated that landlords and property managers of covered properties—those that had federally-backed mortgages or some existing relationship with the federal government—provide tenants with a 30-day notice of intention to evict. That meant that landlords of covered properties were forbidden to begin eviction proceedings until August 24th.

Second, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced on September 1st that landlords could not evict qualifying renters between September 4th and December 31st. This order potentially affords protections to a much larger share of renter households than the CARES Act moratorium did.

Timeline depicting period of analysis, August 9th to September 19th, 2020.

Data from the Eviction Tracking System (ETS) allow us to assess what effects those changes have had and where new eviction filings stand in cities across the U.S.

In Figure 1, we plot the total number of new eviction filings for each of the last six weeks in 16 of the 17 sites that we track in the ETS (we do not include Phoenix, AZ because data there are collected monthly). We saw 1,992 new filings the week of August 9th, and then a step up to 2,304 filings the week of August 16th. The next two weeks—following the end of the 30-day notice period on the CARES Act—saw much larger numbers of new filings: 2,930 the week of August 23rd and 3,131 the week of August 30th. In the week of September 6th—the first week in which the CDC order was in place—new filings dropped to 1,582, half as many as the previous week. Filings rebounded during the week of September 13th, adding 1,975 new cases.1

Figure 1: Total new filings by week across 16 ETS sites
Charts depicting the predicted serial filing rates for different rent amounts. 0 1,000 2,000 3,000 8/9 - 8/15 8/16 - 8/22 8/23 - 8/29 8/30 - 9/5 9/6 - 9/12 9/13 - 9/19

This aggregate pattern—increasing filings across August and a decline following enactment of the CDC order—masks variation at the city level. Indeed, the stories start to look different when we highlight specific sites. In Figure 2 we plot weekly filings in each of these 16 cities over the last six weeks. Rather than plotting the absolute number of filings, we compare weekly filings to historical averages for the given week.

Figure 2: Weekly Filings Compared to Historical Averages

Hartford, CT
St Louis, MO
Fort Worth, TX

Hover or tap to interact with this chart

Four of the cities included here—Austin, TX, Boston, MA, and Bridgeport and Hartford, CT—are still covered by robust local- or state-level eviction moratoria. In these sites, the number of new eviction filings remain well below historical averages. There was no rise in filings in August, nor any change following implementation of the CDC order. In Hartford, for instance, there have been fewer than fifteen new filings in each of the last six weeks. That is less than 10% of the typical number of filings.

Neither Cleveland, OH nor St. Louis, MO is under an eviction moratorium, yet eviction filings remained below historical average in both sites over this period. St. Louis saw the largest number of filings since the pandemic began on the week of August 23rd (286), but this was still less than the typical number of filings in the city for that week. Both sites saw a steep drop in new filings in the week of September 6th.

The other ten cities included here saw at least one week during this period—most often the week of August 30th—exceed historical averages. In Fort Worth, TX, for example, the 456 filings in the week of August 30th was 118% above normal. Each of these sites has seen a decline in new filings since the CDC guidelines went into effect. Cincinnati, OH, for instance, saw 95 new filings during the week of September 6th, down from 256 the week before. The next-largest absolute week-to-week drop in new filings—a change of 76 filings—occurred in mid-March after Cincinnati’s eviction moratorium went into effect. There were 536 new eviction filings in Richmond during the two weeks between the end of CARES protections and the enactment of the CDC order. There have been 31 new filings in the subsequent two weeks.

Still, new filings have clearly not stopped altogether, or in all sites. Fort Worth has seen 508 filings in the two weeks since the CDC order was implemented. Houston had 1,053; Pittsburgh saw 337. The CDC order appears to have moved the needle—in some sites more than others—but it has not stopped the flow of new eviction cases.

  1. Filings in the week of 9/13 may be undercounted as a result of processing delays.
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