What is it about?

Poor people facing eviction must get to court to contest their landlords claims against them or take a "default" judgment and forfeit their rights. Studying 200,000 evictions across 20 years in Philadelphia, we find that tenants with longer commutes to court are more likely to suffer such defaults. The effect is absent when tenants are offered remote hearings, and when the courts work harder to inform certain tenants of their rights. We replicate this finding in a dataset of evictions from Houston, where we even find the commuting effect for tenants within the same building assigned to near and far courtrooms.

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Why is it important?

Evictions are socially pathologic, and our paper offers one mechanism by which they might be prevented. Courts should make the provision of justice more convenient and accessible, including by making scheduling flexible and offering remote courtroom access. Policymakers should pay attention to physical, as well as economic, barriers to justice.

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Longer trips to court cause evictions, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, January 2023, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2210467120.
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