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New eviction resolution program coming to Sedgwick County

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Hugo Phan
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KMUW/File photo

Sedgwick County has a third of all eviction cases in Kansas, the most of any county in the state.

Sedgwick County’s District Court will soon have an eviction resolution program.

The court is the beneficiary of a $261,000 grant that Kansas received to strengthen eviction diversion efforts. About a dozen other jurisdictions around the country also received grant funding.

Sedgwick County handles a third of all eviction cases in Kansas, the most of any court in the state. And eviction cases have increased in the county since the federal eviction moratorium expired in October 2021.

Since the moratorium ended, the county has averaged 121 eviction cases per week, according to data from April.

The grant will fund a program manager who will work out of the Sedgwick County courthouse. The manager will help connect landlords and tenants with legal help, rental assistance or educational resources about the eviction process.

“We’re also interested in providing landlords and tenants with options so that they can resolve cases through alternative means when possible,” said Sarah Hoskinson, who works with the state’s Office of Judicial Administration. “For example, if there’s an option for mediation, we may direct people through the mediation process.”

Judge Robert Woods, who oversees eviction proceedings in Sedgwick County, said that many people he sees in court — particularly tenants — don’t have a good understanding of the eviction process. He hopes the grant program can address this.

“The focus would be on education to help both landlords and tenants make well-educated decisions as they go through that process,” Woods said.

In about 50% of eviction cases statewide, tenants do not appear in court or file an answer. When this happens, the landlord can proceed with eviction by default.

Any resources developed through the grant project in Sedgwick County will be made available to all Kansas courts.

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Celia Hack is a general assignment reporter for KMUW. Before KMUW, she worked at The Wichita Beacon covering local government and as a freelancer for The Shawnee Mission Post and the Kansas Leadership Center’s The Journal. She is originally from Westwood, Kansas, but Wichita is her home now.