Research Publication: The Impact of the COVID-19 Eviction Moratorium on Landlord-Initiated Displacement Actions

October 18, 2022

People call for help with formal evictions, but rarely call about the many other ways they are forced from their homes. Non-formal evictions, or extrajudicial evictions, are happening in the shadows, and in oppressive ways, and are a great contributor to housing instability across Minnesota. 

Nelima Sitati Munene, Executive Director, ACER

The Center for Urban & Regional Affairs (CURA) at the University of Minnesota released a new study commissioned by the ERASE-MN Campaign that examines formal evictions and extrajudicial actions taken by landlords to move renters out of their homes, or what the study calls “Landlord Initiated Displacement Actions” (LIDAs). As well, this study analyzes how the eviction moratorium, in place from 2020 through 2022, affected the rate at which LIDAs occurred across the state of Minnesota.

LIDAs, particularly non-formal evictions, are understudied and not well understood – in fact, CURA’s report may be one of the first to examine non-eviction LIDAs to this extent. As Eric Hauge, Executive Director of HOME Line, which provided the data for the study, states: “This report demonstrates the scope of renter displacement stems from more than formal court eviction cases — it occurs more frequently outside of the court because of fragile lease terms, lack of tenant protections, and an overall power imbalance in landlord/tenant relationships. We need policy responses grounded in the real-life experiences of those impacted to prevent needless displacement.”

ERASE sought this study with an eye toward inspiring more, and more in-depth examination of landlord initiated displacement actions. “While this report is a good start, this is an issue we need to take seriously and understand the full scope. What we see on the ground is a much bigger issue. This data gives us a snapshot.”—Margaret Kaplan, President, HJC. 

The study found that calls about non-eviction LIDAs did not increase during the moratorium. In other words, landlords did not substitute extrajudicial LIDAs for formal evictions during the moratorium

After the moratorium, non-eviction LIDAs have increased above pre-pandemic levels. Thus, landlords are increasingly relying on non-eviction LIDAs. From the report: ”The moratorium may have produced a ‘new normal’ in which non-eviction LIDA calls are a larger percentage of all LIDA calls going forward.”

It appears that the moratorium had a greater beneficial impact on Black, Indigenous, and people of color communities (BIPOC) than white communities. For instance, post-pandemic eviction calls have remained below pre-moratorium calls after the moratorium phase-out, but have increased to above pre-moratorium levels for white renters. (Note: rates for LIDAs continue to be higher for BIPOC renters and communities than for white renters and communities.)

Download the full report

“The repercussions of a forced or unplanned move from your home, whether from an eviction action or other means, is devastating for families. This report prompts us to continue identifying policy solutions, like emergency rental assistance, that stabilize households and communities experiencing displacement.” —Elizabeth Glidden, Deputy Executive Director, Minnesota Housing Partnership.

The data this study examined was provided by HOME Line, which provides free and low-cost legal, organizing, education, and advocacy services so that tenants throughout Minnesota can solve their own rental housing problems.

The Minnesota ERASE Campaign (End Rental Arrears and Stop Evictions) is an effort to ensure that the historic aid enacted by Congress reaches the lowest-income and most marginalized renters it is intended to help. Co-conveners of the campaign include ACER (African Career Education Resource); Housing Justice Center, and MHP (Minnesota Housing Partnership).

African Career Education & Resources, Inc (ACER) is an issue-based African organization working to end disparities within the African immigrant and African heritage community in Minnesota. For over 13 years, ACER has led in advancing equity in our community through organizing, education and advocating for policies that will result in equitable outcomes in our communities. ACER serves as a Field Partner of the RENTHelpMN program to expand access through outreach and navigation support to the most impacted community members in need of rental assistance.

Housing Justice Center (HJC) is a nonprofit public interest advocacy and legal organization, founded in 1999 as the Housing Preservation Project, whose primary mission is to preserve and expand affordable housing for low-income individuals and families. HJC attorneys work with tenant and advocacy organizations, public and private housing funders, owners, developers, and policy makers in their efforts to protect and expand affordable housing. Based in Minnesota, HJC works nationwide.

Minnesota Housing Partnership (MHP) expands housing and community development opportunity for those most impacted by economic and racial disparities by leading collaborative work to promote systems change and grow equitable development capacity. For more than 30 years, MHP has accomplished this mission by producing data-informed research, advocating for equitable housing policy, and providing community development services across the US.