At Philadelphia Eviction Court, Showing Up on Time Is Half the Battle

But new research shows that default judgments, which are served to defendants who are late or fail to appear in court, are disturbingly common in Philadelphia. And among all the barriers tenants face in trying to prevent eviction, their experience is made even harder by one important factor in Haughton’s story: a long trip to the courthouse.

To understand why so many tenants are served default evictions, David Hoffman, a professor of law at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School, and Anton Strezhnev, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Chicago, analyzed 200,000 evictions filed in Philadelphia from 2005 through 2021…

They found that nearly 40% of evictions resulted in default judgments, and that the farther away tenants lived from the courthouse, the more likely they were to get served with one. For every hour in increased travel time, the probability of a default judgment increased by 3.9 to 8.6 percentage points.