Acknowledgments Project Overview
This resource has been compiled through more than a year of collaboration with residents and community groups participating in Who Owns Durham discussions; Research Action Design (RAD); Data + at Duke University (particularly the law and policy research of Samantha Miezio, data visualization of Rodrigo Araujo, and spatial analysis of Ellis Ackerman); Code the Dream and Tomatillo Design; Ekim Buyuk; the staff of Legal Aid of North Carolina; the Civil Justice Clinic at Duke University; and the Durham County Sheriff’s Department.
As we continue enhancing, revising and growing this work, we also look forward to growing this list of contributors.
Where did the evictions data come from? Project Overview
The evictions data was generously given to DataWorks by the Durham Sheriff’s Department. Each time an eviction is served, the Sheriff delivers a notice to the specified address; this process is then recorded in a dataset. The data contain information about the address of the eviction, the civil process (whether a summary ejectment or writ of possession), and dates when the case was opened and when the tenant was notified. These are the primary fields of the data for this analysis. The data contains other, less useful fields as well. From the address of an eviction, we created a map of where evictions occur. We also have rent data, obtained from websites such as Craigslist and Zillow, to determine estimated rent prices in Durham county.
What this data does not capture is the number of informal evictions that take place in Durham. Some residents leave their homes after rent increases because they can’t afford to live there anymore—these people are displaced, but this process is not formally processed through the court system and thus is not considered in this primary data analysis.
Glossary of Terms Project Overview
Click here to view the complete glossary of terms and definitions used throughout this guide to evictions.
What is an eviction? Being Evicted
An eviction is the legal process by which a landlord can remove a tenant. Each state in the US determines its own eviction procedures. A landlord can file to remove a tenant legally from rented property if the tenant has failed to pay rent, violated the lease agreement, or if other conditions apply. The four reasons a tenant can be evicted in North Carolina are as follows:
- The tenant did not pay rent, the landlord made a demand for rent and waited for 10 days, but the tenant still has not paid the rent.
- The lease has ended, but the tenant has not moved out.
- The tenant has violated a condition of the lease allowing for eviction.
Criminal activity has occurred for which the tenant can be held responsible. (Source: North Carolina Judicial Branch)
What is the eviction process in NC? Being Evicted
A typical eviction process might be:
- The tenant misses a rent payment
- The landlord waits 10 days
- The landlord files an eviction
- The landlord “serves” the tenant an eviction notice by mail or hand delivery by the sheriff
- The eviction case is heard in small claims court within 30 days of filing (usually within 10 to 15)
- After 10 days, the tenant or landlord can appeal the case to district court
- If the court rules in favor of the landlord, they can remove the tenant only after the appeal period
Timing and process vary from one eviction to another, and outcomes at each stage are likely to influence the following stages. For example, if the magistrate in small claims court rules in favor of the tenant, the landlord may or may not appeal.
Additional resources about eviction court can be found here:
How long does the eviction process take? Being Evicted
The entire eviction process can take months. If you did not pay rent, the landlord must wait 10 days after demanding payment to file an eviction. The landlord then must have you “served” with the eviction notice, either by mail or by paying the sheriff to deliver it.
How does eviction court work? Being Evicted
Eviction cases are handled in the small claims court, where the magistrate hears the case. In Durham County, small claims court is located in the Durham County Courthouse (510 S Dillard St, Durham, NC 27701). Find your room location here. You can hire an attorney to represent you, or you are also allowed to represent yourself. Your landlord will most likely also hire an attorney to represent them. In Durham County cases, the landlord usually has an attorney while around 95% of tenants represent themselves. If you don’t show up to court, the magistrate will still hear the case just based on your landlord’s version of the situation. The magistrate can order an eviction even if you are not in court! If you do go to the trial, your lawyer or you (if you represent yourself) will have an opportunity to argue your side to the magistrate. Legal Aid has tips for preparing to represent yourself in trial here. After hearing the case, the magistrate decides whether the landlord has proven grounds to evict the tenant.
Can I appeal an eviction? Being Evicted
If the magistrate decides an eviction is warranted, you and your landlord have 10 days to appeal the case to District Court. The landlord cannot remove you until the appeal period has ended.
If the eviction case is appealed, a new trial before a District Court judge is scheduled. Generally, you as the tenant must pay the court costs and any past rent ordered by the magistrate. Usually, you will be allowed to stay in your property during the case. Both you and your landlord will have a new opportunity to testify during the appeal trial, and the judge will make a new decision about the eviction. (Source: North Carolina Judicial Branch)
How long can I stay in my apartment after an eviction notice? Being Evicted
After the appeal period, your landlord can return to court and ask the clerk for a Writ of Possession, which allows the sheriff to padlock your home. The sheriff’s office must remove you within 5 days of the Writ of Possession. The sheriff will not throw your belongings out on the street at this time, but since the door will be padlocked or the locks changed, there could be a delay in your ability to go back inside and gather your things—sometimes up to a couple of days. You would have 5 to 7 days to arrange a time to remove your belongings from the property. After that, your belongings will be disposed of–typically this means Neighborhood Improvement Services must come pick up your belongings and throw them on the curb.
What is required of my landlord? Being Evicted
Landlords in Durham must:
- Make any repairs needed to keep the home fit and safe.
- Keep the plumbing, heating, sanitary, and electrical equipment in good and safe working order, and provide a smoke alarm.
- Provide a carbon monoxide detector if that is required due to the heating system in use.
- If the landlord provides appliances, such as a stove or a refrigerator, the landlord must repair or replace them as needed.
- Keep the stairs, sidewalks and areas that are used by everyone in safe condition.
- Obey the City of Durham’s Minimum Housing Code.
- Inform tenant if she or he sells the property.
- Inform tenant in writing of any complaints about the way that the tenant is treating the property.
For more info, see the Tenant Manual from the City of Durham and the Department of Neighborhood Improvement Services.
Is my landlord following housing standards? Being Evicted
A lease is a contract between a tenant and a landlord. Just as a tenant is obligated to pay rent on time, a landlord is obligated to provide services and repairs to the rented property to ensure a safe residence. A landlord is responsible for repairs or services needed due to routine use of a home, sudden emergencies like a fire or water heater breaking, inclement weather, or acts of third parties who are not guests (vandals, robbers, etc.). North Carolina law requires landlords to keep a home safe and habitable for occupancy. If your landlord refuses to keep the home in a habitable condition, you have the right to sue in civil court.
Can I rent an apartment if I have an eviction? How bad does an eviction hurt my credit? Being Evicted
Evictions have legal, financial, and social effects on the renter. Once an eviction becomes a judgement, it can inhibit the renter’s ability to find another landlord to rent from. Anybody can view court records and judgements since they are public, which means that credit reporting agencies can limit access to credit for tenants who have an eviction on their file. This can make it challenging for renters to find funding for a car and even a mortgage—something that could pull them out of the eviction trap. For renters who lose in an eviction hearing, they only have ten days to appeal or move out of their home. Once the landlord files a writ of possession, you may face an interruption of work, transportation, school and daycare for their children, church, and other social support systems.
How can I protect myself from being evicted? Being Evicted
If you are a tenant, the most important way to protect yourself is to know local tenant and landlord laws before signing a lease. A helpful resource is the Durham Tenant Training Program Manual, which provides general information regarding a tenant’s rights and responsibilities.
Where can I get help if I’m being evicted? Being Evicted
If you have not paid rent when due in the last 3 months or you are in need of temporary financial assistance, contact the Durham County Department of Social Services at 919-560-8000. You can make an appointment to discuss your housing needs and the possibility of a referral to the Eviction Diversion Program. See this flyer for more information.
Who is being affected by evictions? Bigger Picture
We use census demographic data to characterize the neighborhoods in which evictions. More information on data and our methods here. Our findings show that those living in neighborhoods with household incomes below the County’s median income and those living in neighborhoods that are majority people of color (PoC) experience higher rates of evictions.
This graph shows the number of summary ejectments per month in Durham County from January 2012 to October 2014. The blue line shows eviction rates in block groups that are majority PoC, and the green line shows rates in block groups that are majority white.
This graph shows eviction rates in block groups broken up by median household income. The blue line shows rates in block groups whose median income is above the county median household income and green shows rates in block groups whose median household income is below the county median. In this we rely on 2013 median household income numbers to reflect the families that lived there then rather than a current median household income that may be influenced by years of gentrification. If a blockgroup had a low household income in 2013 but a higher one in 2018 after years of evictions and displacement…..
When do evictions occur? Bigger Picture
Below is a graph that shows the number of summary ejectments filed each month in Durham from 2000 to May 2019:
Data from some months of 2003 is missing and evictions from 2000 to 2001 seem to be undercounted because of an inconsistency in data records. Despite this, we still can see that evictions peaked around 2008, and slowly decreased after.
There are a few speculations as to why evictions have been decreasing over time. Some think that housing has become more stable for tenants in Durham, while others think that the eviction crisis and gentrification are pushing renters who can’t afford higher rents to move outside of Durham County.
It is important to note that these are aggregate counts for all of Durham County, meaning that some neighborhoods or demographics could have seen an increase in evictions over time. Our research has indicated that evictions in multi-family units have increased, as well as housing complexes that recently were purchased by large corporations. Durham still faces a housing crisis, and this graph doesn’t show the full story.
What months have the most evictions? Bigger Picture
Evictions tend to be highest in January, and lowest in February, March, and April. There also tends to be a peak in the summer around July and August. This graph shows the average number of summary ejectments each month from 2000 to 2018. It highlights the seasonality of evictions.
What factors account for the monthly and seasonal trends in evictions? Bigger Picture
A number of factors drive these seasonal changes. First, income is irregular for many folks. Seasonal and temporary employment – particularly at universities in Durham – leave workers with gaps in the summer and over the winter between semesters. But tax returns make cash more available for households in February and March, meaning fewer come up short at the beginning of each month. On the other hand, costs are irregular too. In the first cold months of each year, families may have less cash on hand as utility bills for gas, oil and electric heat begin to spike. It has also been reported that many landlords will choose not to evict a tenant in December because of the holidays and wait until January to file against a tenant – contributing to the biggest annual spike every year in that month.
Where do evictions occur? Bigger Picture
How do wages affect evictions? Bigger Picture
During the past 3 decades the nature of employment has changed in some key ways. Where workers used to rely on manufacturing jobs (particularly tobacco and textiles) for steady income over the course of a career, these jobs have been replaced in Durham (for many workers) by service industry jobs. The number of people working in manufacturing in Durham County decreased by 39.7% from 2000 to 2018.
In Durham County today 15% of workers are in the food service/accommodation and retail services industries. While food service and retail jobs increased by 69% in the last 20 years, wages for these sectors have been stagnant or decreased. Average weekly wages in food service jobs were $390 in the year 2000; they were $381 in 2018. For retail workers average weekly wages were $566 in the year 2000 and $573 in 2018. (Inflation-adjusted dollars, data sourced from North Carolina Department of Commerce, Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages.)
Durham is called the City of Medicine for a reason and health care and social assistance workers grew in number by 41% since 2000. They are 18% of Durham’s workers and the field is tremendously stratified. The chart below reflects the dramatic wage gap between specialized workers like surgeons and the care workers that this sector is built on. It also shows whose wages have grown over these years.
In stark comparison, the costs of housing have increased dramatically and 51.6% of renters in Durham are cost-burdened – spending more than 30% of their income on housing.
Failure to pay rent is the primary cause of eviction.
How is the city of Durham affected by evictions? Bigger Picture
Evictions impact not just the families who are evicted and the economy of Durham, but also neighborhoods in ways that cannot be expressed through numbers. From a purely economic standpoint, there are numerous expenses incurred by the city and county. Think about the time and resources that are put into the eviction process: Someone in court must handle the case, the sheriff has to deliver the notice, and the county has to process the eviction; but all of these are just part of the filing process. If the filing leads to a writ of possession, the tenant may need to stay in a homeless shelter, they may experience a health emergency, and they may lose their job from missing too many days of work. Waste management may remove their belongings if they’re unable to move them beforehand and if they are forced to leave Durham and have children in the school system, public school funding could be reduced. Additionally, with each eviction, school-age children often miss several days of school and may be forced to transition to a new school. Over time these disruptions and academic transitions greatly inhibit a student’s success.
It is important to note not only the economic implications of an eviction, but also the social and environmental. There are other widespread effects of an eviction that cannot fit into a mathematical model. Communities experiencing evictions are volatile and less resilient to stressors; their sense of place and culture is also disrupted each time someone is forced to leave their residence. A more stable living situation would result in greater job stability, community building within an area, and better student outcomes.
Who is most at risk of evictions? Bigger Picture
Our research indicates that evictions disproportionately affect neighborhoods of color in Durham. Matthew Desmond, a leading researcher on evictions and author of Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, studied the prevalence and implications of eviction in the lives of the urban poor. He found that low-income female renters were most likely to be evicted in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The main risk factors of eviction for women are low wages, having children, domestic violence, and gender dynamics between male landlords and female tenants.
What is Durham doing currently to prevent evictions? Displacement Prevention
Since 2017, the Durham Eviction Diversion Program has helped its clients avoid eviction judgements 80% of the time and kept two-thirds of tenants in their homes, clearly indicating the success of the program. However, the program is only able to represent 50 tenants per month, so a greater investment in the program will lead to fewer evictions.
Eviction diversion programs are reactionary—meaning they provide support after an eviction has been filed. Other proactive solutions that target the causes of evictions have been suggested by members of the community, including rent control, inclusionary zoning, and universal basic income. To learn more about Durham community-based strategies from a July 2019 Who Owns Durham workshop, follow this link.
To learn about other programs and actions you can participate in see the section of this site called Who is working on evictions & displacement in Durham?
What are other cities doing to prevent evictions? Displacement Prevention
In recognizing that evictions have serious negative consequences for tenants and their communities as a whole, cities around the nation are taking action to prevent eviction and provide assistance to those at risk. Below, we describe three of the approaches that we’ve researched so far:
- Universal right to counsel
- Provision and preservation of affordable housing
- Spreading awareness of evictions
One of the more popular approaches to eviction prevention is universal right to counsel, which is providing free access to legal aid for tenants who are facing an eviction filing. In 2017, NYC implemented a phase-in right to counsel program, providing free legal assistance in eviction filings to tenants with incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. The city is already seeing benefits from the program: From 2017 to 2018, evictions declined by 11 percent in zip codes with right to counsel and by 2 percent in non-right to counsel zip codes. Since right to counsel is known to have positive effects on eviction, other cities have started smaller pilot programs, similar to the Eviction Diversion Program in Durham.
Another approach to eviction prevention is the provision and preservation of affordable housing. Oregon passed a law in early 2019 limiting increases to 7% per year plus the average amount of inflation for the past twelve months. The law also implemented a 90-day notice period for evictions and it limited no-cause evictions, which means that tenants who have been in their current rental home for at least a year can no longer be evicted without a reason. Altering tenant-landlord laws to favor tenants’ rights is another way to stabilize the housing crisis.
Activists working in cities of various sizes and political climates are spreading awareness of evictions through mapping projects and other technology platforms. The Kansas City Mapping Project is a collaborative effort involving researchers, community organizers, neighborhood leaders, lawyers, and policymakers to understand housing, racial injustice, and poverty in Kansas City. The Anti-Eviction Mapping Project is a collective of community partners from the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, and New York City who are documenting gentrification and displacement through maps and story-telling. Other notable projects include the Boston Displacement Mapping Project, Urban Displacement Project, and The Uprooted Project
Who is working on evictions & displacement in Durham? Displacement Prevention
- Stop Evictions Network
- Legal Aid of North Carolina
- Duke Civil Justice Clinic
- Housing for New Hope
- North Carolina Housing Coalition
- Durham Housing Authority
- Fair Housing Project of Legal Aid NC
- National Low Income Housing Coalition
- Durham Community Land Trustees
- Durham for All
- People’s Alliance
- Coalition for Affordable Housing and Transit