Q4 Report - Issue Spotlight: Repeat Eviction Filings and Household Impacts

Repeat or serial eviction filings, where a landlord files for eviction against a household more than once at the same address, are an enduring feature of eviction in Dane County since the COVID-19 pandemic. To those who observe the eviction process, it appears clear that there is a significant rise in landlords leveraging the eviction process as a form of debt collection; not a means of reclaiming the rental unit. Over 20% of all eviction actions filed in 2023 have been against tenants with a prior filing by the same landlord at least one other time since 2022, according to the Tenant Resource Center’s eviction data.

Studies have shown that increasing the cost of eviction results in fewer eviction filings.

In Dane County, a relatively small group of landlords are responsible for the majority of repeat filings. Thirty landlords filed more than half of all repeat evictions since 2022 - a total of 764 filings. The five landlords with the most repeat filings were:
Prima Management, LLC: 37 repeat filings
4713 Cottage Grove Road Madison LLC: 33 repeat filings
Valley View Apartments: 32 repeat filings
Madison Meadows LLC “The Meadows Apartments”: 30 repeat filings
Oakland Property Services, Inc.: 22 repeat filings

A significant subset of renters are chronically at risk of being evicted. Of the ~3,200 evictions filed since 2022, 764 were repeat filings. In all, 274 tenants were filed against twice; 46 three times; 12 four times; and 6 tenants were filed against 5 or more times.

An additional 129 evictions were filed against tenants by two or more landlords in 2022 and 2023.

The impact of repeat filings on tenants is harmful, time-consuming, and expensive. A single eviction has been shown to have deleterious effects on a tenant’s physical and mental health. Additionally, an eviction can imperil subsidies for tenants living in public or subsidized housing. Having even one eviction on a tenant’s record can make finding stable, safe, and affordable housing difficult; multiple evictions can make that search nearly impossible.

In many cases, landlords will attempt to pass on the filing fees and court costs to their tenants; even in cases where the landlord dismisses the case after payment or agrees to a stipulated dismissal agreement. For some, this additional ~$200 in costs simply adds fuel to the fire that is the tenuous stability they have in affording their rent.

One factor that has contributed to an increase in repeat eviction filings in the past few years has been a rise in landlords not meeting the necessary service or procedural elements required in an eviction action. For example, Dane County added a local rule that requires landlords to provide information about rental assistance and mediation programs (such as those operated by the Tenant Resource Center) in connection to their eviction paperwork. In some cases, if the landlord was unable to quickly remedy the issue, they would simply file a new case rather than complete the service requirements.

Another trend noted by Tenant Resource Center staff and EDDP attorneys was the high frequency of filings where the landlord filed against a household that was still in the process of receiving ongoing rental assistance through emergency rental assistance programs. In many such cases, the balance was either close to receiving a payment or simply required the landlord to provide details for costs that weren’t included on the rent ledger at the time of a previous payment.

In order to reduce the frequency of these filings, Dane County needs an increased investment in programs that can provide an alternative to the eviction process, such as mediation programs. The Tenant Resource Center’s Housing Mediation Service, for example, utilizes neutral third party mediators who could facilitate conversations between tenants and landlords to reach an agreement that can avoid the eviction process. These agreements include payment plans, changes to tenant-landlord practices, move out dates, and other practical solutions that can preserve the relationship between tenants and landlords.

Currently, only the City of Madison and private donors fund the Tenant Resource Center’s Housing Mediation Service (outside of federal emergency rental assistance funds) at ~$45,000/year. At this level of funding, there is only capacity to cover those cases where an eviction has already been filed (even with a contingent of dedicated individuals who volunteer their time for the program at no cost) and not those where an eviction filing could be prevented.