December 08, 2020
By Emily F. Keller
Baltimore City to Provide Free Legal Representation to Tenants Facing Eviction

A new Baltimore City Council law will provide free legal representation to all tenants facing eviction by the city’s Housing Authority, as part of a broader effort to reduce the disparate impacts of eviction based on race and gender. The law contains statistics derived from research at the University of Washington (UW) and the University of California, Berkeley (UCB), led by Dr. Timothy A. Thomas.

The law, passed in December 2020, requires the Baltimore mayor to appoint a city tenant with an extremely low household income (in relation to the area median income) as a new member of the Affordable Housing Trust Fund Commission; and requires the commission to provide an annual report with metrics on the number of people receiving representation, services provided, outcomes evaluations, and engagement and education of tenants.

Landlords for all buildings owned, operated or managed by the city’s Housing Authority will be required to disclose information to tenants about their right to counsel with any notice to terminate their housing subsidy or tenancy. Individuals with the lowest median incomes will receive the highest priority as the services are phased in over the next four years. Representation will be provided through contracts with nonprofit organizations.

The law cites the following statistics for Baltimore City:

  • Approximately 140,000 eviction cases are filed each year.
  • In eviction proceedings, only 1% of tenants have legal representation, compared with 96% of landlords.
  • The number of Black households evicted is 195% greater than the number of white households evicted.
  • The number of Black female-headed household evictions is 3.9 times higher (296% more) than the number of white male-headed household evictions.

This follows the May 2020 release of the Baltimore Eviction Map by Dr. Thomas and researchers Ian Kennedy, Alex Ramiller, Ott Toomet and Jose Hernandez, in collaboration with local attorneys and advocates. Dr. Thomas is the research director for the UCB’s Urban Displacement Project; co-lead of the Cascadia Urban Analytics Cooperative’s (CUAC) Neighborhood Change Project at UW; and lead researcher for The Evictions Study, a collaboration between UW and UCB. This work is partially funded by CUAC.