Baltimore Renters Turn to Judge Judy to Navigate Eviction Flood

"Rent court'' is a Baltimore institution where landlords try to force tenants to pay up or get out. It may also be a good place to gauge how America’s urban poor are faring in the face of affordable housing shortages and rampant gentrification. The answer is not good.
News Story (Maryland)

Patrick Clark
Bloomberg Businessweek
December 7, 2015

Tags: Housing: Eviction, Rent Court, Research/Data

Organizations mentioned/involved: Public Justice Center (PJC)


As part of the Baltimore report, the nonprofit interviewed almost 300 tenants. It found that the typical recipient of an eviction notice was a black woman who earns less than $2,000 a month. Most of the renters PJC talked to said they lived in apartments with such defects as leaky roofs and faulty boilers—facts that could have allowed them to withhold rent, shielding them from eviction.

Some respondents said they prepared for their day in rent court by talking to friends and family who had been through the process. Others said they got ready by watching courtroom reality TV shows such as Judge Judy.

“You have tenants with a lack of knowledge about their rights, facing a party that’s usually very familiar with the process,” Shah said. “It’s hard for tenants to defend themselves.”