The rate of Pittsburgh renters facing eviction judgments is lower than state and national averages, according to new data analysis by the Eviction Lab at Princeton University. But many displaced tenants never make it to the courtroom.
The lab examined eviction judgments handed out by a judge nationwide from 2016 that showed that about one in 100 Pittsburgh renters were subject to evictions, which is less than half the national average of 2.34 percent. Pennsylvania's average is 1.77 percent, and locally, that figure is trending downward.
Jay Dworin, executive director of Pittsburgh's Fair Housing Partnership, said that’s not the full picture of evictions. Tenants often don’t have enough legal help or don’t understand the eviction process, he said, so they never even appear before a magistrate. When they get a 10-day notice from their landlord, they just leave, assuming that they would otherwise be locked out of their home. Dworin said that would be illegal.
“They get the notice to quit, and they’re afraid of being homeless, so they immediately start to make plans, and they move out before that 10 days,” said Dworin. He said that type of informal eviction is not captured in the data, "and that’s common place, that’s not a rarity.”
Renters also often miss their opportunity to appear in court because of the expense and a lack of understanding of their legal rights, he said.
These evictions often disproportionately impact the most vulnerable populations, according to Dworin, including the city’s poor, elderly and those with disabilities. He said the issue is exacerbated by a lack of affordable housing options.