Landlords file evictions against Black renters substantially more often than they do with white renters, a Chicago housing advocacy group found in a study.
The Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing said they examined nearly 300,000 Cook County eviction court records from 2010 through 2017 and found that in Black neighborhoods like South Chicago, landlords filed to get their tenants evicted at a much higher rate than they did in other parts of the city. In fact, in 2017 alone, landlords with properties in Black neighborhoods filed for evictions four times more often than in white areas, the report found.
Mary Williams told The Chicago Tribune that she has experienced this firsthand.
Williams said she approached her landlord to report dark gray spots on her ceiling that would spread after every rain shower. Her landlord allegedly never fixed her leaking roof or the mold that was starting to grow in her bedroom, so she stopped paying rent.
“I kept telling them, and they didn’t care,” Williams told The Chicago Tribune. “In my mind, I was saying they’d have to take me to court. Once they take me to court, I’m going to go to the court and show them my living conditions because they won’t come to fix the problem.”
The parties were able to eventually reach a settlement, which requires that Williams moves out of her South Chicago apartment next month forgoing the withheld rent, which is almost $5,000.
What seems to get lost is that landlords should not only be asked to provide affordable housing but they should be required to upkeep the housing as well.
“This is not acceptable,” explained Randall Leurquin of the Lawyers’ Committee, who crunched the data in the report, according to The Chicago Tribune. “We have a requirement to affirmatively further fair housing, and that’s just not about obtaining a house, it’s also about maintaining a house.”
However, an eviction lawyer challenged the report’s notion that landlords are targeting Black tenants, saying evictions are costly and the last recourse for landlords who simply want their tenants to pay their rent on time.
“The idea that landlords who go to these communities, rebuild these properties and, in most cases, provide good housing would venture on a money-wasting and -losing process by filing disproportionately against communities of color is so nonsensical it boggles my mind,” Michael Griffin, attorney at Chicago law firm, Sanford Kahn, told the Tribune.
Fair housing advocates blame the racial disparity shown in the rate of evictions to poverty and racial discrimination.