There’s An Eviction Epidemic In Baltimore, And The Deck Is Stacked Against Renters

As a new report from civil legal aid group Public Justice Center outlines, Baltimore’s “rent court” processes 150,000 landlord-tenant cases a year, more than half of all of the filings in its District Court system. That averages out to more than 600 rent complaints a day.

News Story (Maryland)

Bryce Covert
December 7, 2015

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

Organizations mentioned/involved: Public Justice Center (PJC)


A huge number of these cases end up in eviction. Every year, 6,000 to 7,000 Baltimore City renters are judicially evicted for not paying rent. The city’s rent court processes about 70,000 warrants to enforce eviction a year. The rent eviction rate is so high — 5.52 evictions per every 100 renters — that it was even higher than the number of foreclosure filings in the wake of the recession. The city ranks second only to Detroit in the percentage of renters under threat of eviction over rent.

Bell and her family were lucky enough to avoid that fate thanks to support from the Right to Housing Alliance. But she knows that without that legal help, things could have turned out differently. “It is really, truly hard to navigate it on your own,” she said. “If you don’t know the law, then it’s hard to fight… And a lot of people are not knowledgeable. We’re not lawyers, and you’re not knowledgeable about codes and what has to happen.”

Nearly all of the actions are brought by landlords, and the most common one is trying to evict a tenant for allegedly failing to pay the rent. The landlord’s path is relatively smooth. As a former district court administrative judge once put it, “It’s easier to evict someone in Baltimore City than almost anywhere else in the country.” The form a landlord fills out to submit a complaint consists of just ten prompts on one single-sided page without any requirements for other documentation. And in surveys of nearly 300 renter defendants and their cases, the Public Justice Center found that many landlords didn’t fully fill the form out.