Washington landlords are finding ways around the pandemic-related moratoriums on evictions, and this is disproportionately affecting people of color. Preliminary findings from an Evans School of Public Policy & Governance study show an increase in reports of renters being evicted from their homes through informal methods such as texts, emails or verbal communication from landlords telling them to leave.
“If a landlord wants to evict a tenant and they’re really intent on doing it, they are probably going to accomplish it without serving a formal eviction notice,” says Matt Fowle, a doctoral candidate and one of the researchers on the study. “Tenants perceive that they have less power now compared to landlords than they did before the pandemic.”
Just as the pandemic has taken a disproportionate toll on BIPOC communities, research shows Black, Indigenous, and Latinx renters were most likely to report being housing insecure. They were also more likely to be behind on their rent payments. “Landlords, [property] managers, are always very willing to believe that you’re the problem in any situation when you are a Black person living in a white community,” one respondent said in an interview for the study.
The research was funded by the West Coast Poverty Center and the UW Population Health Initiative, which addresses the most persistent and emerging challenges in human health, environmental resilience, and social and economic equity. The study focused on tenant experience, but Fowle noted that eviction moratoriums have hit landlords with only one or two properties especially hard. They may have also lost jobs and may need the income from their properties to pay their bills.
Looking ahead, the study offers this final note: Both tenants and landlords will need financial assistance before the statewide moratorium ends on June 30. Otherwise there could be mass evictions and a rise in homelessness.