Kansas City Nonpayment Evictions Reach 21st-Century High

More eviction proceedings for nonpayment were filed against tenants in the Kansas City metropolitan area last year than at any time since 1999, according to a report issued Sept. 12 by the Kansas City Eviction Project. 

The Eviction Project, a collaboration between researchers, community organizers, neighborhood leaders, lawyers, and policymakers, looked at court records for Jackson County, Missouri, which encompasses most of the metropolitan area of 2 million people. It found that evictions filed because of nonpayment of rent “have increased substantially since 2012 and are at their highest levels in at least 18 years.” It said this indicates that the supply of affordable units is shrinking, and that development and gentrification are also pushing out tenants. 

The number of eviction attempts, it said, has averaged about 9,000 a year since 1999, but “the actors filing evictions have changed.” Limited liability companies (LLCs) filed 4,125 of the 9,292 eviction attempts last year, 30 percent more than in 2016, and more than quadruple the number ten years earlier. The number of eviction cases based on landlord complaints has declined by almost half since 2012. 

The results in the county’s landlord-tenant court would be painfully obvious to anyone familiar with New York’s Housing Court. Between 2006 and 2016, the report said, 84 percent of landlords in eviction proceedings had lawyers, and only 1.3 percent of tenants did. Of the 6,952 eviction cases that reached the point where they were heard by a judge, the tenant was not evicted in only 18. Almost two-thirds of the cases were decided in favor of the landlord by default because the tenant did not appear in court. 

“Race is the most important factor in predicting whether a person will be evicted in Kansas City,” the report added. “Even when holding income constant, we find black people are evicted at a higher rate, and eviction has the deepest impact on neighborhoods in Kansas City with a greater population of black or brown residents. In parts of the city that are majority white, evictions are lower.” 

“We still don’t know the scope of the problem in Kansas City because of informal evictions outside the court system,” the report cautioned. It recommended more “public investment in preserving and rehabilitating truly affordable rental stock,” eviction-specific policies, regulation of the private market—the area has no rent controls, so landlords can refuse to renew a tenant’s lease without having to give a cause—and “a racial-justice agenda that includes equitable representation in courts.”