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Source: United States House of Representatives – Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (District of Columbia)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) sent a letter to Chief Judge Anita M. Josey-Herring of the D.C. Superior Court supporting an increase in the filing fee for evictions to reduce the number of eviction filings by landlords trying to collect small amounts of rent owed and asking the court to solicit feedback by parties affected by the fee, especially tenant representatives, as part of a rulemaking process on this matter. Norton cited a study that showed D.C.’s eviction filing fee to be the lowest among all cities in the study and $91 below the median. The court agreed to solicit public comment on the fee.

“After looking at the issue, I’ve concluded that the low eviction filing fee in D.C. encourages landlords to file for evictions as a first response to small amounts of rent owed, imposing unnecessary costs on tenants and the court,” Norton said. “Especially during this pandemic, we do not need to encourage evictions.”

Norton’s letter and the court’s response are below.

December 9, 2020

Chief Judge Anita M. Josey-Herring

Superior Court of the District of Columbia

500 Indiana Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20001

Dear Chief Judge Josey-Herring:

            I understand that the Superior Court of the District of Columbia is examining its eviction filing fee.  On November 10, 2020, the D.C. Council passed legislation expressing the sense of the Council that the fee should be increased from $15 to $100 to reduce the number of eviction filings by landlords trying to collect small amounts of rent owed.  I, too, support increasing the fee.  As we consider the urgent issue of mitigating evictions in Congress, I urge the Court to actively solicit public feedback by parties affected by the fee, especially tenant representatives, as part of a rulemaking process on this matter.   

            According to a recent study, the Court’s $15 eviction filing fee is the lowest in the major American cities studied, and D.C. has one of the highest rates of eviction filings.[1]  This suggests that D.C.’s low fee, which is $91 below the median, encourages eviction filings.  The study found that landlords in D.C. often use eviction filings as a rent collection mechanism, making repeated filings against the same tenant to collect small amounts of rent owed.  While most eviction filings do not result in a formal eviction, an eviction filing becomes a permanent stain on tenants’ housing records, regardless of the outcome of the eviction process, making it more difficult for renters to find a home in the future, not to mention the time, costs and stress involved for the tenant in responding to such a filing.

            I understand that landlords can recover the eviction filing fee from tenants if the eviction is authorized by the Court, so any increase in the fee could eventually add to tenants’ debt.  However, I believe that raising the fee would decrease eviction filings and therefore be a net benefit to tenants.

I request a written response to the issues raised in this letter by December 21, 2020.

Sincerely, 

Eleanor Holmes Norton    

 

[1] Brian J. McCabe and Eva Rosen, “Eviction in Washington, DC: Racial and Geographic Disparities in Housing Instability,” Fall 2020, available at https://georgetown.app.box.com/s/df0d4mruf59wcvqm6cqo9a8pyu8ukeuk.

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