Innovations

Explore the programs that different communities around the U.S. are experimenting with.
This page provides an inventory of the services that are being piloted and proposed to address the eviction crisis — with specific focus on different phases of the eviction process, and different categories of interventions.

Profiles of eviction interventions

Explore these in-depth descriptions of new policies, services, and technology interventions that aim at addressing the eviction crisis — including reducing eviction filings, improving tenants’ rates at appearing in court, increasing housing stability, reducing disruptive displacement, and improving the ability of tenants and landlords to reach mutually acceptable agreements at resolving evictions.

Eviction Cost Calculator

The I4J Lab at University of Arizona has created a Cost of Eviction Calculator. This tool can help policy-makers, service-providers,…
Read More

Right to Counsel in NYC

NYC’s Right to Counsel program provides free full-representation lawyers to tenants who live in eligible zip codes, and who are…
Read More

Innovations by Type

Communities are trying out different kinds of programs to improve eviction, including a range of measures focused on particular services or broader policies.

These lists compile the Laws and Policies, Service programs, and Technology tools that are being piloted. Please contact us if you have more examples to include!

Laws and Policies

Tenant Protection + Eviction System Reform legislation has come in single local ordinances, or suites of legislation at state level, including:

  • Virginia state legislature’s new laws in 2019 (House Bill (HB) 1889/Senate Bill (SB) 1445, SB 1448, HB 1922/SB 1627, and HB 2054/SB 1676) that extend the tenant’s ability to resolve an eviction by paying back-rent; speeding up the period in which a landlord can hold onto a writ of eviction; and requiring all landlords to offer tenants written lease (or have to use a model lease’s default terms). In 2020 there was more proposed legislation around capping late fees and allowing tenants more defenses in an eviction action if there were issues with housing conditions.
  • New York state’s Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019, that stops courts from selling eviction data; sealing eviction records that resulted from foreclosure; protecting tenants from landlord rejections because of previous landlord-tenant court cases; prohibiting eviction or penalties based on tenants raising complaints about living conditions; and giving the tenant more time in the eviction court case to raise defenses and prepare for moving, giving them more opportunity to end the case by paying all rent due, and limiting what money the landlord can get
  • Washington State passed a tenant protection law, http://www.federalwaymirror.com/news/eviction-reform-passed-by-state-legislature/
  • San Jose, California has a Tenant Protection Ordinance http://www.sanjoseca.gov/DocumentCenter/View/68577
  • Illinois has an Immigrant Tenant Protection Act that offers tenant various immigration-related protections. Landlords are not allowed to disclose or threaten to disclose a tenant’s citizenship status for the purpose of intimidating or retaliating against the tenant. They are also barred from bringing evictions “based solely or in part on the immigration or citizenship status of a tenant.” If they violate the law, tenants are empowered to sue for damages in civil court.  The bill was inspired partly by a similar law enacted in California in 2018.  More Information/Public Act 101-0439

Civil Right to Counsel, in which tenants (possibly subject to income or jurisdiction eligibility) get free lawyers : http://civilrighttocounsel.org/map, with an evaluation of NYC’s right to counsel program by NYU Furman Center

Just Cause eviction laws, that restrict the circumstances under which landlords can evict tenants — only if they have violated the lease or otherwise have ‘just cause’.

Masking + Sealing of Eviction Records: new laws under consideration in DC

Moratorium on evictions in Winter, either through formal law or informal policy, like

  • In Seattle, which has provisionally passed a law (as of Feb. 2020) through the City Council that bans some winter evictions between November and February;
  • In DC, where the sheriffs have an official policy not execute an eviction order when there is precipitation falling or when the weather is forecast to be below 32 degrees;
  • In the Chicago-area, where sheriffs and courts have policies not to execute eviction orders on Christmas, New Year’s Day, or when it is too cold (usually under 15 degrees)

Moratorium on eviction filings, execution of writs, and utility shutoff during an emergency like a public health epidemic. See some of the policy and rule trackers for the COVID-19 pandemic:

Eviction Policy Profiles

Right to Counsel in NYC

NYC’s Right to Counsel program provides free full-representation lawyers to tenants who live in eligible zip codes, and who are income-eligible. It is run by…
Read More

Services

Collaborative housing courts, like in Red Hook Community Justice Center in Brooklyn, NY (read its origin story), and the Harlem Community Justice Center

  • Rochester, NY is considering a new housing court model, that would allow the court to make orders to landlord about habitability; allow tenants to represent themselves more easily; and have more court-supervised administrators following up to make sure necessary changes are made

Eviction Diversion Programs and Prevention programs, that stop court actions against tenants with emergency funds, mediation, and securing housing for the tenants

Court-based Self-Help clinics, Legal Services, and Navigators that provide free brief-service lawyers and volunteer paralegals to help a tenant prepare for an eviction hearing, get through negotiations, reach settlement, and sometimes provide in-court representation to clients

Pro Bono Training that increase the supply of trained housing law lawyers + volunteers, like Poverty Justice Solutions in New York City or Massachusetts’ online training to volunteer in their Lawyer for the Day clinics

Eviction Service Profiles

Right to Counsel in NYC

NYC’s Right to Counsel program provides free full-representation lawyers to tenants who live in eligible zip codes, and who are income-eligible. It is run by…
Read More

Technology tools

Tech to document living conditions, gather evidence, and correspond with landlords

  • JustFix.nyc tech tools for tenants, that provide people with the ability to record problems with their living conditions, write official letters to their landlord, prepare evidence for court hearings, and connect with other tenants who are dealing with similar issues/landlords
  • Dear Landlord (Australia) and Hello Landlord (US) – for tenants to write formal legal letters about problems, and to create a trail of evidence that can be useful in future court actions

Tech to help tenants (and advocates) prepare court filings, answers to eviction lawsuits, legal strategies on defenses to use, and scripts to use at hearings

  • MADE self help for eviction in Boston, that lets tenants
  • Arizona Eviction Self Help website (Pima County, Arizona), that walks tenants facing eviction through their possible defenses, options, and scripts they can use to communicate their issues

Tech to train tenants and landlords on their rights, and how to represent themselves in a legal proceeding

  • Represent online simulation game for self-represented tenants (Northeastern University and local legal aid groups in New England), that prepares tenants for what to expect at housing court
  • Rentervention chatbot (Chicago), that lets tenants chat with an interactive, pre-programmed system to learn their rights and legal options based on their scenario

Data and Tech to identify poor living conditions and possible future evictions, landlord-tenant legal issues

  • Heat Seek NYC/GotHeat that use a low-cost temperature sensor system to identify buildings that have problems with heat. This might allow for easier ways to verify tenants’ complaints, document problems, and direct inspection resources. GotHeat also has a data strategy, of data sets of housing at risk for heating problems to find likely targets for inspection.
  • Data-Driven Inspections in San Jose, in which the city’s Code Enforcement Office prioritizes its inspection strategy based on a data model developed to be more precise at finding likely housing code violations. The model looks at the amount of time since past violations; presence of previous violations; absence of recent building permits; nearby violation rates; and other factors. This was built with fellows from the group Data Science for Social Good, and Univ. of Chicago’s Center for Data Science and Public Policy (see their final summary).
  • DC Housing Inspection Algorithms, in which the city’s Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs has changed its inspection model of rental housing based on a collaboration with Georgetown University data science students, to develop an algorithm that better targets the inspections + be more proactive in finding violations. See more on this work in DC, with this pdf report.

Tech to inform policy

Eviction Technology Profiles

Eviction Cost Calculator

The I4J Lab at University of Arizona has created a Cost of Eviction Calculator. This tool can help policy-makers, service-providers, and others to determine what…
Read More


Innovations by phase of the eviction process

We are mapping and categorizing innovations by what aspect of the system or phase of the process they target. The map below begins when a person is at risk of eviction.

A note on upstream policy interventions: Many of the academic studies and think tank proposals around addressing the eviction crisis focus on policies well upstream from the eviction process, that target the housing market and affordable housing more generally:

  • Change the housing market dynamics to increase supply and tenant protections, like with rent control, a guaranteed right to housing, incentives to build ADUs (accessory dwelling units or granny-flats), or new zoning rules;
  • Increase the availability of housing support for low-income families through increased public housing, vouchers, or increased funding assistance; or
  • Addressing people’s mismatched income-to-rent ratio, with a higher minimum wage, and more available lending and forgiving repayment options to people.

Our mapping is more focused on the interventions that are possible once someone is in an existing housing market, and are facing problems with their rental or a court action to evict them. We believe that policy-makers and service-providers must focus on both the long-term, systemic upstream changes to the housing market, as well as on the short-term changes to the services, rules, and policies of the eviction system itself. This addresses the

Most evictions proceed through set phases: from making a rental agreement and moving in, to problems emerging, to the initiation of an eviction action (formal or informal), to a possible court process, to downstream continuing consequences for those involved.

The mapping below is only a starting point: it will be expanded over time as we collect more information. It also leaves out categories of responses that are more focused on root causes, such as efforts aimed at increasing the stock of affordable housing. These efforts are crucially important to ending evictions, but are somewhat separate from interventions aimed at different stages of the process.

Phase 1: Before an Eviction

These innovations focus on educating tenants and landlords about their rights, improving rental agreements, and putting in place policies to reduce the likelihood an eviction is brought.

Tenant education and problem documentation

Workshops, seminars, and other outreach campaigns to educate tenants on their rights, including how to navigate court processes.

Landlord education programs to ensure they understand the law and know how best to resolve issues with tenants.

Hotlines and other resources for tenants worried about their housing conditions or a possible eviction, including tools to report code violations and tools to determine whether a tenant could be at risk of eviction.

Data-driven mappings and listings of landlords who engage in problematic behaviors, and predictive analysis of where inspectors and outreach might be focused.

Tools to document payments and living conditions, to support future legal proceedings or to be shared with other community members to identify systemic violations or support wider advocacy.

Lease improvements

Standard model leases with provisions that protect against common challenges faced by tenants, including providing for fairer procedures such as mediation.

Lease-related technology, such as tools that let tenants quickly check a lease for concerning clauses or missing terms.

Pre-lease signing education for tenants and landlords to increase awareness of key lease provisions, including dispute resolution options.

Information about rights, options, and legal helplines to be provided along with the lease.

Early dispute resolution

Letter-writing tools for tenants to communicate problems effectively to landlords.

Resolution councils and sessions to provide guidance to both landlords and tenants.

Limiting certain filings

Just cause standards that require landlords to show an acceptable cause for why they are filing for an eviction (e.g., based on a lease contract violation) or require a fee for evictions without cause.

Evidence standards that require landlords provide full documentation of notices and other documents before they can file for an eviction, or even require they provide proof that they have exhausted other mechanisms.

Clean Hands requirements preventing landlords with code violations from filing eviction actions.

Filing requirements such as higher fees or attorney involvement.

Moratorium on evictions for times when people are particularly vulnerable, including winter.

Phase 2: During an Eviction

These innovations focus on improving tenants’ understanding of what is happening, equipping them throughout the legal process, and connecting them to other resources and supports.

Improved notices and official documents about evictions

Information sheets from the court or the landlord (and their attorney) that would accompany a notice of a possible eviction action, a summons to court, or the eviction complaint and which provide information about legal aid, financial help, and other resources.

Requirements that landlords register any notice to evict with a mayor’s office or other agency to increase awareness and tracking of informal evictions.

Visual design standards for all notices, summons, and complaints (and possibly all documents used by landlords and their attorneys) to ensure that these documents are legible, comprehensible, and actionable by tenants.

Language requirements that ensure landlords, attorneys, and courts are communicating in tenants’ preferred language.

Financial services

Microcredit and lending services that responsibly provide short-term financial assistance, including emergency rental assistance.

Social Services

Social workers and eviction prevention counselors for tenants in public housing complexes, nonprofit housing, and private housing.

Legal services

[Applicable at all stages of the process] Right to counsel policies that provide counsel to those facing evictions, often throughout all stages of the process, and either for all tenants or based on established eligibility criteria (e.g., income level or type of eviction).

Phone and chat hotlines that provide guidance to tenants about their options and the process and refer them to other resources.

One-off advice clinics or consultations, such as lawyers-for-a-day programs, that provide tenants quick access to a lawyer who can help them form a strategy or represent them in court. Lawyers can often be accessed in court, at legal aid, or elsewhere.

DIY websites and paper materials that guide tenants through how to prepare documents, paperwork, and scripts for their court process. These can be through ‘guided interviews,’ ‘document assembly programs’ and other tools that provide interactive, tailored information and can provided by courts, self-help centers, legal aid groups, foundations, or other entities.

Google and other search engine strategies that improve the likelihood that tenants will find free legal help (or other guidance) if they search online, through courts and legal aid groups investing in outreach and search engine placement or through technology companies proactively choosing to foreground public interest resources if someone is searching for help with eviction.

Court processes

Lower barriers to answer, in those states that require a tenant to answer the lawsuit in order to get a hearing (and avoid a default). Eliminate filing fees for a tenant filing an Answer. Have the court do the ‘Proof of Service’ rather than the tenant. Lengthen the Answer response time to 14 days. Make a simple Answer form that does not require expert knowledge to complete. Allow tenants to e-file their answer, rather than doing it in person at a limited time. Or, at the most basic, remove the Answer requirement and guarantee all tenants a hearing.

Language access for all forms and communications, interpreters who are available pre court and the day of the hearing.

Collaborative courts and social services at court that give litigants additional support, including access to mental health supports and social service screening and referrals. This could also entail changing the structures and formalities of the court in order to allow litigants to speak more freely, find outcomes that serve their needs, and overcome other biases.

Court watchers or navigators, who accompany a litigant through the procedure and hearing and provide some amount of explanation and guidance (though not legal advice).

Negotiation and settlement assistance

Eviction diversion programs that bring landlords and tenants together after an eviction lawsuit has been filed to agree on a settlement plan that eliminates the lawsuit and typically includes rental assistance and other measures to help tenants stay stably-housed.

Mandatory settlement conferences that bring parties together before the hearing to work out a mutually beneficial settlement and close the lawsuit, or efforts to at lease encourage settlements.

Housing settlement masters and standards for default agreements to prevent imbalanced and harmful settlements. This could entail the court or legal aid providing Settlement Negotiation Templates that guide first-time litigants through what to ask for and how to navigate settlement talks and suggest provisions such as receiving a reference letter, full return of the security deposit, and financial consideration for poor living conditions.

Phase 3: After an Eviction

These innovations focus on how to mitigate the consequences of an eviction, including facilitating access to new housing, education, and employment.

Post-Judgment court and legal improvements

Easy ‘Motion to Set Aside’ default judgment that tenants can get a hearing + options, after missing court

Easy ‘Motion to Stay’ to postpone actual eviction

Legal Aid after court to consult on next steps + rights

Stable Transition Support

Case Worker to support tenant and family for post-eviction year, to ensure stable housing, financial coaching, and physical/mental health counseling

Housing Assistance with listings or database of landlords likely to rent, or provide guide to get placed

School Transition to keep kids in same school or one with least disruption, and with counseling support

Address Change/Stable Address service

Storage and moving program to provide free or low-cost service to prevent losing household belongings

Employer Support to cover eviction-related time off and support; and incentives to hire (and not fire) those who have been evicted

Eviction masking and credit reports

Policies that seal evictions records or limit the extent to which landlords and others (such as credit providers) can take them into account.

Automatic Masking of all eviction records by court

Post-Court Masking + Credit Clinic to get tenants immediate help in improving their credit report

Prohibiting reporting on eviction by credit agencies, or put mandatory delay of several months on reporting

Reduce eviction record ‘blacklist’ to shorter time

Get Landlords Groups to be blind to eviction history

Emergency Phase

These innovations focus on how to respond to special circumstances like a natural disaster, public health emergency, or financial crisis that has particular effects on renters — and that threaten to worsen the rates and outcomes of evictions.