Upstream Legal Literacy as an Eviction Prevention Mechanism: an RCT

Harris County leads the nation in evictions – which disproportionately affect households of color and, some evidence suggests, negatively influence health, education, and generational wealth. Harris County’s statistics do not include “informal evictions,” forced moves outside the court process that are often the result of illegal landlord action, such as telling a tenant to leave, changing the locks, or refusing to make necessary repairs. Beyond haphazardly available cash from charities for rent relief, however, informal eviction interventions are few. We will pilot a randomized controlled trial (RCT) to assess whether it is possible to reduce illegal or unnecessary informal evictions by increasing legal literacy, that is, by teaching tenants more about how to assert their rights. The study will further test whether legal literacy can improve outcomes for tenants when they do find themselves facing eviction. Finally, this study will assess ways to improve take-up of legal services. We will begin to investigate the hypothesis that legal literacy is a useful tool for eviction diversion.

RFP Cycle:
SPRI RFP XIX [January 2023]
United States of America
  • Pilot project