Are You Prepared for the Eviction Tsunami?

In America, the multifamily housing industry is at crossroads when it comes to evictions. While some states have begun to reopen with the promise that the courts will start hearing eviction cases later this month, others are considering extending eviction moratoriums due to rising COVID numbers. Regardless of when the courts open back up, the likelihood that the nation will be swept up in an influx of evictions grows. With evictions, comes more rental applicants, and it’s important to know how your rental policy will handle this before the eviction tsunami hits.

COVID-19 Should Affect your Rental Policy

If you (or your upper management) haven’t revised your written rental criteria during the pandemic, you’ll want to consider doing so, and fast. As an industry, we’ve had to adapt to social distancing guidelines, stay-at-home orders for both residents and staff, drastic unemployment causing missed rent payments, and eviction court closures. In the last few months, the landscape of our industry has drastically changed, and so have our applicants. Moving forward, you’ll want to change your policy to keep up.

In America, the multifamily housing industry is at crossroads when it comes to evictions. While some states have begun to reopen with the promise that the courts will start hearing eviction cases later this month, others are considering extending eviction moratoriums due to rising COVID numbers. Regardless of when the courts open back up, the likelihood that the nation will be swept up in an influx of evictions grows. With evictions, comes more rental applicants, and it’s important to know how your rental policy will handle this before the eviction tsunami hits.

red pen editing

COVID-19 Should Affect your Rental Policy

If you (or your upper management) haven’t revised your written rental criteria during the pandemic, you’ll want to consider doing so, and fast. As an industry, we’ve had to adapt to social distancing guidelines, stay-at-home orders for both residents and staff, drastic unemployment causing missed rent payments, and eviction court closures. In the last few months, the landscape of our industry has drastically changed, and so have our applicants. Moving forward, you’ll want to change your policy to keep up.

red pen editing

In the past, we’ve talked extensively about why you should be avoiding blanket standards (or “bright-line standards”) to avoid liabilities, including discrimination. Blanket standards are overly broad language in your rental criteria like “no felonies” or “no evictions.” While normally, stating “no evictions” is problematic in that it does not factor differences between laws on the federal, state, and county level and can be perceived as anti-renter, with COVID-19 evictions on the horizon, this policy can be especially precarious. Here’s why:

In the past, we’ve talked extensively about why you should be avoiding blanket standards (or “bright-line standards”) to avoid liabilities, including discrimination. Blanket standards are overly broad language in your rental criteria like “no felonies” or “no evictions.” While normally, stating “no evictions” is problematic in that it does not factor differences between laws on the federal, state, and county level and can be perceived as anti-renter, with COVID-19 evictions on the horizon, this policy can be especially precarious. Here’s why:

  1. It’s not a good look (legally)

You can imagine the headlines now: ‘Insensitive Landlord Denies Renters with COVID Evictions.’ Even if you’ve always had the policy to deny any applicant with an eviction record, if that the denial was on the basis of a COVID-19 eviction, you could be in hot water. Denying a COVID eviction can not only cause a blow to your property’s reputation, but could cause legal issues or complications. Plus, as the eviction tsunami hits, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see state-led legislation aiming to restrict the use of COVID eviction records for housing.

2. COVID-19 evictions don’t accurately show risk

If an applicant loses their job during the pandemic and gets evicted because they couldn’t pay rent, that doesn’t mean they’re a bad renter or that they’re risky. They’re just hard on their luck like the millions of other unemployed Americans. At the end of the day, a single eviction related to COVID-19 missed payments does not accurately depict the consumer’s rental history, especially if they had a perfect record prior. And, if they meet your income requirements when applying, it’s likely they won’t be a repeat offender.

blind folded woman on edge of cliff
  1. It’s not a good look (legally)

You can imagine the headlines now: ‘Insensitive Landlord Denies Renters with COVID Evictions.’ Even if you’ve always had the policy to deny any applicant with an eviction record, if that the denial was on the basis of a COVID-19 eviction, you could be in hot water. Denying a COVID eviction can not only cause a blow to your property’s reputation, but could cause legal issues or complications. Plus, as the eviction tsunami hits, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see state-led legislation aiming to restrict the use of COVID eviction records for housing.

2. COVID-19 evictions don’t accurately show risk

If an applicant loses their job during the pandemic and gets evicted because they couldn’t pay rent, that doesn’t mean they’re a bad renter or that they’re risky. They’re just hard on their luck like the millions of other unemployed Americans. At the end of the day, a single eviction related to COVID-19 missed payments does not accurately depict the consumer’s rental history, especially if they had a perfect record prior. And, if they meet your income requirements when applying, it’s likely they won’t be a repeat offender.

How to Use Eviction Data Responsibly

Navigating responsible eviction data use can be tricky, but not impossible. If you haven’t incorporated these into your leasing process already, here are 3 things you can do:

  • Avoid blanket standards
    As we stated above, you’ll want to make sure your rental criteria does not have bright-line standards like “no evictions.” Instead, replace it with specific, date-centered restrictions like “no monetary evictions in the past 3 years (with exception of COVID-19 related evictions).”


  • Stay on top of data restrictions/laws

In the past few years, we’ve seen counties and states restrict the use of eviction and criminal data when making rental housing decisions. You’ll need to be aware of your own local and state-wide data laws when reviewing your applicants’ background checks to avoid this liability.

Subscribe to stay up to date on the latest laws!

  • Apply your rental policy equally, at all times

No one wants to be sued for discrimination. To ensure your rental policy is being applied equally, there are a few options. One way to reinforce this is to set in place consistent training for your staff on your property(s) rental criteria and how to uphold it. This includes any legal updates or restrictions, policy changes, and more. The other option is to use rental recommendations like MyDecision. MyDecision allows you to set up rental criteria for each of your properties and have that criteria be applied automatically whenever a resident screening report is processed.

As the pandemic reshapes the way our industry operates, it’s important that we take extra care to be empathetic during this time. This not only applies to our applicants and residents, but our staff and peers as well. These can be hard, overwhelming times – and we must band together to make sure we’re taking care of each other. Even with an eviction tsunami lurking ahead, CIC will be here to help.

How to Use Eviction Data Responsibly

Navigating responsible eviction data use can be tricky, but not impossible. If you haven’t incorporated these into your leasing process already, here are 3 things you can do:

  • Avoid blanket standards
    As we stated above, you’ll want to make sure your rental criteria does not have bright-line standards like “no evictions.” Instead, replace it with specific, date-centered restrictions like “no monetary evictions in the past 3 years (with exception of COVID-19 related evictions).”
  • Stay on top of data restrictions/laws

In the past few years, we’ve seen counties and states restrict the use of eviction and criminal data when making rental housing decisions. You’ll need to be aware of your own local and state-wide data laws when reviewing your applicants’ background checks to avoid this liability.

Subscribe to stay up to date on the latest laws!

  • Apply your rental policy equally, at all times

No one wants to be sued for discrimination. To ensure your rental policy is being applied equally, there are a few options. One way to reinforce this is to set in place consistent training for your staff on your property(s) rental criteria and how to uphold it. This includes any legal updates or restrictions, policy changes, and more. The other option is to use rental recommendations like MyDecision. MyDecision allows you to set up rental criteria for each of your properties and have that criteria be applied automatically whenever a resident screening report is processed.

As the pandemic reshapes the way our industry operates, it’s important that we take extra care to be empathetic during this time. This not only applies to our applicants and residents, but our staff and peers as well. These can be hard, overwhelming times – and we must band together to make sure we’re taking care of each other. Even with an eviction tsunami lurking ahead, CIC will be here to help.

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Becky Bower is the Content Strategist here at the CIC Blog. She holds a degree in English, with a focus in creative writing, from CSU Channel Islands. Her biggest weakness is cake and favorite superhero is Batman.

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