4 Results

4.1 Eviction Counts

Unlawful Detainer Cases by Washington County

Figure 4.1: Unlawful Detainer Cases by Washington County

Between 2013 and 2017, 1 in 55 (1.8%) Washingtonian adults faced an eviction. Figure 4.1 shows the number of unlawful detainer court cases from 2004 to 2017 across the state of Washington by county. With the exception of King, most counties experienced a steady count of evictions, with the top five most populated counties facing well over 1,000 evictions per year. King (green) saw a peak in evictions just before the end of the Great Recession, which ended around 2009, tapering off during recovery, and then a steady count from 2012.

While the decline in evictions seems promising, a brief study from the Urban Institute suggests that the loss of affordable housing and a drop in the area’s low-income population coincides with declines in evictions. In other words, declines in evictions may be because King County evicted everyone they could.27 Section 5 goes further into this discussion, but in brief, Washington has lost 76,865 affordable homes at $800 or less since 2012, coinciding with an increase in homelessness that matches Great Recession numbers. Given that eviction is a leading cause of homelessness28 29 30 it seems likely that lower evictions might decline when homelessness is high and affordable housing is scarce.

Table 4.1: Eviction counts by County and Year
County Total 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
Adams 161 19 17 11 7 6 11 12 14 6 17 8 9 11 13
Asotin 618 58 38 50 30 31 25 41 36 53 36 51 50 67 52
Benton 7,089 532 431 459 475 516 492 441 456 461 530 603 556 550 587
Chelan 1,544 146 166 105 127 120 96 103 102 111 95 108 89 108 68
Clallam 1,612 100 99 96 86 90 88 100 125 125 146 157 142 130 128
Clark 20,237 1,767 1,771 1,667 1,549 1,573 1,425 1,490 1,491 1,327 1,310 1,346 1,244 1,106 1,171
Columbia 74 3 6 6 4 3 4 3 3 7 8 1 6 8 12
Cowlitz 5,733 517 502 516 445 438 373 320 362 330 381 370 450 364 365
Douglas 586 65 50 49 48 37 34 34 33 34 40 40 54 43 25
Ferry 48 5 5 4 3 4 7 0 1 4 4 1 2 4 4
Franklin 1,953 110 139 126 170 154 151 141 98 114 123 146 155 151 175
Garfield 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 5
Grant 2,522 188 212 198 204 193 181 152 166 160 193 189 175 145 166
Grays Harbor 3,107 265 282 242 231 209 170 168 164 180 254 206 246 264 226
Island 1,191 74 81 61 69 71 72 89 102 85 94 100 102 85 106
Jefferson 466 26 36 35 28 33 34 38 31 23 44 39 34 31 34
King 80,503 6,628 6,971 6,963 6,467 6,064 5,695 5,634 6,308 5,306 5,175 5,019 4,805 4,731 4,737
Kitsap 8,306 697 663 612 651 607 511 518 583 556 610 649 605 594 450
Kittitas 734 57 57 56 39 32 45 53 58 35 51 48 62 59 82
Klickitat 44 7 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 7 1 1 0 0 27
Lewis 2,536 241 220 206 220 188 141 167 138 157 164 183 170 176 165
Lincoln 105 5 5 9 10 12 11 5 5 10 6 9 8 5 5
Mason 1,477 125 157 92 110 90 93 109 111 102 98 107 87 101 95
Okanogan 500 37 31 28 25 45 37 29 40 42 47 31 26 41 41
Pacific 525 37 70 47 51 25 29 26 30 24 39 37 41 30 39
Pend Oreille 202 13 15 13 17 20 11 13 13 12 13 12 18 15 17
Pierce 46,771 3,471 3,622 3,456 3,471 3,211 2,873 3,076 3,327 3,223 3,296 3,616 3,551 3,359 3,219
Puget Sound 181,172 14,610 14,981 14,464 13,816 12,970 11,998 12,345 13,666 12,232 12,245 12,504 12,176 11,803 11,362
San Juan 178 17 19 14 8 9 7 17 12 11 12 17 16 8 11
Skagit 3,338 255 290 256 204 211 170 206 253 235 265 270 245 247 231
Skamania 208 14 14 5 10 15 15 12 13 13 20 13 25 16 23
Snohomish 33,322 2,934 2,773 2,625 2,429 2,251 2,257 2,358 2,606 2,274 2,249 2,174 2,174 2,155 2,063
Spokane 22,201 1,906 1,882 1,701 1,630 1,387 1,296 1,332 1,521 1,380 1,672 1,695 1,709 1,579 1,511
Stevens 619 60 62 23 44 37 29 37 45 37 40 46 55 47 57
Thurston 7,741 551 581 491 525 555 420 464 487 553 556 676 694 632 556
WA No King 190,955 15,596 15,594 14,428 14,056 13,171 12,143 12,531 13,385 12,636 13,480 14,059 13,825 13,237 12,814
Wahkiakum 49 3 2 2 2 5 5 2 2 4 6 2 5 5 4
Walla Walla 1,231 105 101 84 75 68 81 78 84 74 92 85 80 102 122
Washington 271,458 22,224 22,565 21,391 20,523 19,235 17,838 18,165 19,693 17,942 18,655 19,078 18,630 17,968 17,551
Whatcom 5,360 526 478 400 405 355 363 308 368 341 375 394 346 370 331
Whitman 460 27 34 36 36 34 18 28 26 29 31 34 44 48 35
Yakima 8,101 633 683 647 618 536 567 561 479 497 562 595 550 580 593

4.2 Default Judgments

Default Judgment Counts and Percents by Washington County

Figure 4.2: Default Judgment Counts and Percents by Washington County

One surprising trend is the number of default judgments (no-shows to court) among unlawful detainers. The figure above shows the count and percent of cases that were default judgments. By count, most occurred during the great recession. However, the percentage of cases that were defaults tells a different story. Spokane County saw a steady trend of about 45% of cases defaulting, while Snohomish, Pierce, and Clark peaked around 45% to 50% in 2006, landing to around 30% and 35% by 2017. King, on the other hand, is above Great Recession percents hovering just under 50%.

The consequence of no-show outcomes almost surely guarantees that the tenant will face the strictest enforcement and costs of an eviction. A recent study in Seattle found that the median court costs for over 1,000 cases in 2017 was $3,129.73, which included owed rent, non-rent charges, and legal costs.31 In addition to the mark of an eviction, these costs compound the already dire consequences of evictions.

4.3 Representation

Average legal representation for all counties in Washington State from 2004 to 2017

Figure 4.3: Average legal representation for all counties in Washington State from 2004 to 2017

One of the suggestions in helping ameliorate the negative affects of an eviction filing is to have legal representation during the court proceedings. The same Seattle study in 201732 found that defendants that had legal representation were twice as likely to stay in their homes as compared to pro-se representation. Less than 8% of all Washington defendants had an attorney named on their behalf in our data. One caveat to this number is that a named attorney does not equate representation during trial, but rather, there was some attorney working on some part of the case (i.e. not necessarily present before the judge). Realistically, attorney representation at the time of trial would speculatively fall several percentage points below 8% for all defendants. Among all the 39 counties in Washington, only 9 counties had an average representation rate at or above 8%. Figure 4.3 shows the average representation for each county from 2004 to 2017, where black dots represent the average and the density bands show the variation in representation over time. King County had the most representation ranging from under 14% to one time to 33% and an average of about 21%. This high level of representation for defendants may be related to the efforts of volunteer law programs such as the Housing Justice Project that represents defendants on the day of their trial. Regardless, the rates of eviction in King County are still some of the highest in the state. The red dots on the left identify the top 5 most populated counties. As you can see, Pierce, Clark, Spokane, and Whatcom counties still have extremely low representation averages below the state average of 8%.

4.4 Sex of the evicted

Female to Male Ratio in Evictions by WA County

Figure 4.4: Female to Male Ratio in Evictions by WA County

Across Washington state, females were evicted 6% more than males (189,053 females, 178,500 males, and 30,143 unknown).33 However, this distribution is not the same for every county. Figure 4.4 shows the smoothed averages of the female to male ratio of adult defendants. Pierce, Spokane, Clark, and all “other” counties with less than 700 evictions a year (n = 34) have a higher ratio of around 11% more eviction filings for women than men. King County and neighboring Snohomish County have slightly more men evicted than women at roughly 3% on average.

4.5 Race of the evicted

Race Differences in Evictions for Select WA Counties

Figure 4.5: Race Differences in Evictions for Select WA Counties

The most troubling results from this analysis is the huge racial disparity of Black adults who faced eviction filings.34 When comparing the court records for three counties to their respective 2012 to 2017 adult population, we find that 9% of Black adults in King County and 17% of Black adults in Pierce faced an eviction within a 5-year period (see Figure 4.5). Whatcom’s Black population is much smaller (less than 1%) than King (5.5%) and Pierce (6.6%) and only faced an eviction rate of 1.4%. Latinx adults, a population close to the proportion of Black adults in these counties (compositions of 7.6%, 8.1%, and 7% respectively), faced much lower eviction rates of 3% in King, 3.7% in Pierce, and 1.8% in Whatcom. White adults came in third with roughly 1.5% and 2.6% eviction rates while Asian adults faced the lowest rate of 0.5% and 1.7%.35

When comparing each of these racial groups to the White eviction rates, Black adults are evicted 5.5 times more than Whites in King County, 6.8 times more in Pierce, and only .9 less in Whatcom (see Table 4.2. Latinx adults are evicted 1.9 times and 1.4 times more than whites in King and Pierce and only 10% more in Whatcom. Asian adults are evicted almost half as much as Whites.

Table 4.2: Eviction counts, rates, and ratios by race
County Race & Ethnicity Adults County Adult Race Percents Evicted Adults Percent of Evicted Adults Eviction Ratio to white
King Asian 285,020 16.4% 2,544 0.9 % 0.6
King Black 95,992 5.5% 8,471 8.8 % 5.5
King Latinx 132,460 7.6% 4,000 3 % 1.9
King Other 73,291 4.2% 66 0.1 % 0.1
King White 1,152,975 66.3% 18,480 1.6 %
Pierce Asian 42,436 6.4% 728 1.7 % 0.7
Pierce Black 43,756 6.6% 7,834 17.9 % 6.8
Pierce Latinx 53,993 8.1% 2,016 3.7 % 1.4
Pierce Other 32,668 4.9% 70 0.2 % 0.1
Pierce White 491,509 74% 12,942 2.6 %
Whatcom Asian 7,567 4.3% 40 0.5 % 0.3
Whatcom Black 1,534 0.9% 22 1.4 % 0.9
Whatcom Latinx 12,380 7% 217 1.8 % 1.1
Whatcom Other 9,475 5.3% 16 0.2 % 0.1
Whatcom White 146,497 82.6% 2,265 1.5 %

  1. Urban Institute 2018: DC’s Eviction Filings Are Down. Are High Rents to Blame?

  2. Crane, Maureen, and Anthony M. Warnes. “Evictions and prolonged homelessness.” Housing studies 15, no. 5 (2000): 757-773.

  3. Desmond, Matthew. “Eviction and the reproduction of urban poverty.” American Journal of Sociology 118, no. 1 (2012): 88-133.

  4. Curtis, Marah A., Hope Corman, Kelly Noonan, and Nancy E. Reichman. “Life shocks and homelessness.” Demography 50, no. 6 (2013): 2227-2253.

  5. Losing Home report

  6. Losing Home report

  7. We estimate the sex of the evicted, based on the names on the eviction summons. Note that summons may not include all persons living in the premises, but most likely contain the names of those who have signed the rental agreement and any other adult in the household.

  8. We estimate race of the evicted based on the name and census tract. While our methodology gives good overall estimates, the results may be biased toward the racial majority in the corresponding tracts. However, we have compared these rates to actual demographic intake rates by the Housing Justice Project and they fall within a couple percentage points to their actual intake counts.

  9. One drawback from using race estimations and census data is the lack of detail within ethnic groups and, therefore, potential under-evaluation of disparities in evictions. For example, the overall Asian eviction rate is the lowest of all groups, however, there may be some groups within this ethnic category that have a high rate of evictions over another. One possible solution for future work is to disaggregate Asian backgrounds by using their first name, which can be more closely identified with a particular region of Asia and potentially more precise estimation.