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Four Eviction Myths

Evictions are traumatic, and over the years, we've heard a lot of misconceptions about them. We can all agree that evictions are bad, but the impacts are a lot farther reaching than most realize. So, we want to take a minute to share a few of the more common myths surrounding evictions, and why it's important to understand the whole picture. We’ve discussed the social impacts of evictions over the past months following our collaboration with Ernst & Young, and now we're sharing a few of these myths to continue raising awareness around this oftentimes preventable dilemma. For people experiencing poverty, an eviction can have life-changing consequences.

Myth #1: Are evictions really that big of a concern?

Putting aside the emotional consequences of eviction to families, there are a number of large-scale implications we need to pay attention to.

The gaps between affordable rent and incomes signal a disparity, especially for those with low incomes. With more people renting than ever before, rents are increasing to match the demand. In an already tight rental market, low-income renters are being priced out of the places they could previously afford. Most families living at or below the poverty line spend at least half of their income on housing, with some spending an even higher percentage rent and utilities. Couple that with an unexpected expense like a car repair or urgent medical cost, and balancing the household budget becomes even more precarious.

Overall, nearly half of people in the Twin Cities are paying more than they can afford for rent. But some people are significantly more affected than others, pointing to deeper systemic problems. Of Black households, about 50% are cost burdened, compared to roughly 25% of white households. Following this trend, researchers have confirmed that evictions impact people of color significantly more than those identifying as White. In particular, Black women are disproportionately more likely to face eviction. Compounding this disparity are the generational impacts of evictions: moving to a neighborhood with fewer opportunities, changing schools, and breaking relationships with friends and teachers all put kids at an even bigger disadvantage — helping to keep the cycle of poverty going. 

Evictions are a big concern not only because of unsustainable rising rents and a severe shortage of affordable housing, but also because they further indicate a huge equity problem in our neighborhoods.

Myth #2: Evictions are not that common.

Historically, this used to be true — even in the Great Depression of the 1930s. Yet over the years, we’ve seen eviction trends that we need to pay attention to.

In Minnesota, eviction case filings are disproportionately high in the Twin Cities. The cumulative eviction rate in the metro county area is 3.3%, just over double the eviction rate statewide, which is 1.6%. As recently as 2016, this meant that in Hennepin and Ramsey counties, almost 9,000 individuals and families had evictions filed against them. That's a considerable number of people left without a stable home.

Wisconsin is estimated to have 41 evictions per day, at a rate of nearly 2%, with Milwaukee struggling through some of the greatest hurdles to overcome (you’re likely familiar with this if you’ve read Evicted). Though MN and WI states are similar in the number and demographics of residents, the number of eviction filings in Wisconsin is double Minnesota’s. CommonBond provides affordable housing to over 12,000 people in Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin, so keeping track of regional and national trends is important for us to best serve those experiencing these types of struggles.

Myth #3: If you don't pay your rent, you deserve to be evicted. 

According to MinnPost, 93% of evictions were filed in Minneapolis due to nonpayment of rent. On average, the amount due to landlords was less than $2,000. But consider this: many people are one accident or emergency away from being unable to afford their homes, and that can mean having to choose between two or more equally crucial payments. A car repair in order to get to work and keep your job, a child's hospital bill, food for your family — these are all critical examples, and with these details in mind it's easier to understand how sometimes rent doesn't come first. 

To further complicate things, people with low incomesespecially if they already have an eviction on their recordare in an especially difficult situation. Because finding housing is so difficult in this scenario, many live in unacceptable conditions, feeling powerless to negligent landlords because they have few other options, and fear retaliation if they exercise their tenant rights. Other times, a resident may withhold payment because of landlord-neglected substandard living conditions, unfairly triggering the eviction process

Additionally, research has found that just 10% of renters (compared to 30% of landlords) have legal representation in eviction scenarios. This is a reason why areas that experience higher rates of poverty may see higher rates of evictions. And an eviction isn’t just a one-step process; it starts with the lease violation which triggers a summons, then moves through a series of steps that can end with the sheriff coming to the unit to remove the residents. These steps can be challenging to navigate, especially when juggling multiple jobs, transportation, and family life, not to mention access to information and legal counsel. Renters without representation and support from proactive property management are at a huge disadvantage. And we should note — the statistics reported don't include the thousands of informal evictions, which lack due process for the renters.

Myth #4: Evictions only affect the person who is evicted.

Economic impacts of evictions are big and have a ripple effect. Let’s break down the numbers.

After the eviction, it is complicated to find a new place to stay and often means couch-hopping — or in the worst cases, living on the streets. These scenarios are defined as unsheltered, meaning you don’t have a permanent address. Someone experiencing chronic homelessness, on average, costs taxpayers over $30K a year. Factoring in the costs for health care, mental health, and other human services when someone experiences chronic homelessness, municipalities struggle to keep up with resources to help folks get back on their feet.

Yet these costs dramatically decline when supportive services are offered, slashing that cost nearly in half. Bottom line? It’s so much better to help people stay in their homes.

We should mention that not every eviction translates to losing your home. In fact, the state of Minnesota is doing better; in 2016, approximately 25% of filings saw an actual eviction, which has fallen from 56% in 2007. While noting that improvement, we must continue to focus on progress. Through CommonBond's social return on investment impact study with Ernst & Young, we saw that for every dollar invested in eviction prevention, our communities realize a return of $4. We believe that together we can find solutions that keep people in their homes and continue to decrease the number of evictions that displace residents.

For more information or to get involved, please email As an organization, we are strongly committed to helping end preventable evictions and creating positive property manager/resident relationships which seek solutions that work for everyone.



What this fails to mention is the reason(s) for (some) of the evictions. Yes, there are many people who had life hit them from every direction. But there are valid evictions for people breaking the law, breaking the terms of the lease, drugs, partying all the time, messy, loud, drinking, property damage, having pets not allowed there, domestic violence, harassment and threatening someone, having people there not on the lease, etc. There are SOME people having issues because of their own fault and actions, personal responsibility and their own lack of self-discipline. And plain and simple, not wanting to follow the rules and not break the law.

Indeed there could be many reasons for an eviction. The point of this piece is to highlight the less-understood side of evictions, and that it's not always as straightforward as the reasons you listed. We just want folks to think more holistically about some of these misconceptions and their long-term impacts.

Chelsea, CommonBond Communities

Anthony Novak

Great piece here- very helpful to learn of the less understood reasons for evictions. In many cases, its so much more complicated than people think. Very good to understand the ripple effects of evictions in the community as well; what it means to us taxpayers. More often than not, lanlords are holding their tenants to an unreasonable standard, rent-wise. Its a problem that is deeply ingrained in a layered system that often values money over human beings. Ive tried for a long time now to disprove my last statement; but I have failed to do so. Thank you for this article.

Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment, Anthony! You're totally right--it's a systemic problem with a ripple effect, and we appreciate you taking the time to think about that long-term impact.

-Chelsea, CommonBond Communities

Susanne Glasser

This is an interesting article. But I think your statistics regarding eviction rates are a little misleading. I am an attorney who represents landlords in eviction proceedings. I agree that evictions are filed at a rate of 3.3%, however, more than 90% of the evictions filed are settled by the tenant and landlord, most often with the parties agreeing on a payment plan. So it is not accurate that 3.3% of tenants in the metro area are evicted, most of them are not, and most of them receive an expungement of the eviction if they follow through with the payment plan.

Hi Susanne, thanks for your perspective. This data was based on an evictions study conducted by the City of Minneapolis's Innovation Team. Their findings show much lower success for settlements, and that the majority of cases ended in tenant displacement.

It's definitely complex, and we're truly happy that in your experience, most cases are settled successfully. It's great to hear that landlords and residents are working out plans to avoid evictions.

Sherida Horrigan

To whoever said it also affects tax payers, I would remind them that I worked and paid taxes for 30 yrs before ending up in where I am today. Thank God. Someplace that takes my current situation to determine my rent. From Minnesota, I'm older and it's cold and hard out there.

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If you can’t pay your rent and pay it on time the landlord sees you as a problem. Just 1 more thing to deal with. I change $750 a month when all the other landlords change $900 and all the condos are the same. But if you can’t pay the rent you got to go. It’s not personal but I can’t afford to let anyone live for free. If you want a landlord who will let you slide and pay what you can when you can then be upfront about it. Before you move in ask the landlord if that’s ok.

Hi John,

We definitely understand the need to collect rent. This piece is meant to try and help folks think a little differently about some of the underlying causes. It's great that you're charging below market-rate—so many people desperately need that kind of affordability. On the renter side (especially in our industry of affordable/low-income housing), it's just so much more complex than paying rent vs. not paying rent. The points we wrote about here aren't to vilify landlords, just help people see this problem—which on the surface can feel quite simple—in the context of some of these deeper social inequities and impossible choices residents are often faced with.
-Chelsea, CommonBond Communities

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Ella King

Thank you for this insightful and informative piece explaining evictions in the modern context. While I agree that unlawful evictions are reprehensible, I don't see the issue with lawful eviction. Furthermore, I am confused as to why you think non-payment is not a valid reason for eviction. When someone signs a lease, they are agreeing to payment for services rendered. If they decide to stop paying, why should that service continue?

Another commenter above noted that landlords hold tenants to an unreasonable payment standard. I find that interesting as well since tenants are generally not compelled to sign leases in poor faith. (If the tenant was compelled, that's a different story, and the people involved should be reported.) If a tenant signs what they believe they can pay, why would that before considered unreasonable?

Unexpected expenses crop up from time to time, but that is generally why people try to maintain savings. Most financial planners generally recommend having several months worth of expenses saved up for precisely these situations. If a person is not able to build up savings while spending a certain amount in expenses, the financially responsible thing to do would be to reduce those expenses and not to continue living above their means.

Furthermore, if the general sentiment is that the tenant should not be responsible for their own financial stability, thereby forcing their landlord to eat the cost, it's no wonder that landlords would find it necessary to increase the rent to plan for the inevitable. Afterall, the bank would not accept "I had to pay for my tenant's hospital bill" as a valid reason for not making a mortgage payment.

Additionally, most proper landlords generally don't go the eviction route as that is costly. Evictions rack up lawyer fees while the chance of recovering back rent is not guaranteed. It's usually reserved for the cases in which they don't see another option.

It's easy to see landlords as the aggressors since they may seem more well off, but most landlords only own a few units and depend on that rental income to survive as well. They're also just trying their best to fulfill their own financial obligations and support their own families.

Hi Ella,

Many of your points seem to center around the idea that we're suggesting tenants need not pay rent or need not be held accountable. But we're not asserting any of that. This piece is meant to introduce another perspective about why evictions happen, and give some context to some of the underlying problems. There are so many misconceptions about evictions and the folks who have had to go through them. We do understand a landlord needing to collect rent—we are one, and we do. We also understand the importance of savings—we just see the other side of the coin where for many, savings aren't possible when you're already making critical sacrifices in order to make rent. We just want people to consider the broader context—increasingly tight housing markets leave families with very few options, and only looking at it from the perspective of a landlord needing to collect rent dismisses many deep-rooted injustices that affect so many people's abilities to find—and pay for—safe, stable housing.

-Chelsea, CommonBond Communities

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