And It’s Not Because They Got Behind on Their Rent
A study conducted last year across Canada found that 13% of Black and 12% of Indigenous respondents had experienced an eviction in their lifetime, compared to 7% of respondents who were neither Black nor Indigenous.
That horrifying fact should come as no surprise. But what most people don’t realize is why these evictions happen. It’s easy for us to assume that evictions only happen if you get far behind on your rent and don’t communicate with your landlord. Or if you’re a nightmare tenant in some other way.
We all buy into the myth that if we’re respectful tenants who pay on time and in full, or at least work out a viable payment plan when we can’t, we’ll have nothing to worry about. And landlords are perfectly content to let this myth be the prevailing narrative.
But the truth is that about 75% of evictions happen through no fault of the tenant, with no breach of the lease agreement, and with little time to secure alternate arrangements.
How can that happen?
It happens all the time, for various reasons, including:
Sale of Property by Landlord
For 37% of respondents to last year’s Canadian survey, the landlord’s desire to sell the property was the reason for eviction. No matter how good of a tenant you are, you’ll still be subject to the whims of the real estate market and your landlord’s desire to make more money off of someone else than he can make off of you.
With speculative real estate development on the rise everywhere, this is an increasing problem for would-be renters, making it the most commonly reported reason for eviction. Ironically, some of these properties are snapped up by developers, demolished or renovated, and put back on the rental market for astronomically higher prices.
Very few places have legislative protection for renters in this situation. So it’s all too common for people, especially Black or Indigenous people, to enter homelessness directly due to their former landlord’s greed.
Landlord Wanted the Unit for Personal Use
The second most popular reason for eviction was tenants being kicked out so that the property owner or a relative of theirs could move in. This accounted for 26% of reported evictions.
Obviously, the tenant has no control over when or if they find themselves in this situation. It most often happens because of circumstances in the landlord’s life or due to gentrification, making a unit the property owner never considered living in suddenly much more desirable.
During the early parts of the pandemic, there was an increase in evictions of this nature as landlords tried to cut costs, hunker down, and move closer to their families. The predictable result is a lot of poorer people scrambling to find alternate accommodations at the worst possible time.
Conflict With the Landlord
The third most popular reason for eviction, coming in at 13%, was a conflict with the landlord. This is ambiguous and could cover a range of different situations. But it’s easy to see how racism can play into this and contribute to the disproportionately high rates of eviction the Black and Indigenous Canadians face.
Demolition, Conversion, or Major Repairs by the Landlord
Ten percent of evictions come about due to demolition, conversion, or significant repairs to the unit being carried out by the landlord.
Since most landlords aren’t in the business of fixing things up just for the sake of fixing them up, we can assume that this is usually the result of a necessary repair or an attempt to flip the unit to fetch a higher price from the next tenant.
Either way, when this idea crosses the landlord’s mind, anyone living in the unit is out of luck and, too often, out on the street.
Legally, the tenant is supposed to have the right to move back into the property after the repairs are completed under the same lease and at the same rental price as agreed initially. But realistically, that doesn’t always happen. Even if your landlord offers you the option, you would have to go through the hassle and expense of moving again just months after being evicted the first time. And there’s no guarantee that they won’t just evict you again to be able to capitalize on their new investment.
Being Behind on Rent Payments
Lastly, just 8% of reported evictions were caused by the tenant being behind on their rent payments. This happens nearly five times less frequently than evictions caused by the landlord’s desire to sell their property. Yet it’s the first thing that springs to mind when we think of eviction. Why is that?
It could be partly the fear of the unknown and unpredictability that pushes us toward the false conclusion that bad things only happen to bad people. We like to feel we have control over our lives and circumstances. So we assume that other people caused their poor circumstances through something they either did or failed to do. That way, we can assure ourselves that as long as we do x, y, and z while avoiding a, b, and c, everything will be ok.
Of course, the world doesn’t work like that, but many believe it does. It leads to pretty poor behavior and a lack of compassion when taken to the extreme.
Eviction can happen to any renter at any time. Very few places offer legal protection against no-fault evictions like this. Both data and experience show that renters who are Black or Indigenous are the most vulnerable of all to these types of sudden, unfair evictions.
To add insult to injury, BIPOC renters also face additional hurdles in securing new housing. So 60 days’ notice is not likely enough time to find a suitable new place. Unfortunately, we know that many of these evicted renters end up homeless, which makes it even harder to find housing.
It’s a vicious cycle that destroys lives, all started by someone’s desire to pad their pockets.