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

Tenants who live farther from the courthouse are more likely to be served with default judgments and lose their homes, according to new research. 

A SEPTA bus in Philadelphia in 2021.

A SEPTA bus in Philadelphia in 2021.

Photographer: Hannah Beier/Bloomberg

A decade ago, Angela Haughton was trying to fight an eviction in court — her ex-husband had sold the house out from under her after an acrimonious divorce, and the new owner wanted her out. But on the day of her hearing, she struggled to find child care for her three young sons and ended up missing the bus she needed to catch to make the trek downtown to the Philadelphia Municipal Court in time for her appearance. Her lawyer promised he’d try to stall, but by the time she arrived, her name had already been called. She was served with a default judgment and given 30 days notice to move out.

“I feel like I could have won,” says Haughton, who spent a long time blaming herself for the tardiness that helped upend her family’s life.