“It makes you feel defeated and hopeless. It’s like you feel stuck. You have no help and nowhere to turn to all because of something that happened years ago,” said Jennifer Lee, a mother of two who was evicted in 2015.
Since the start of the pandemic, Pennsylvania landlords have filed more than 280,000 evictions. This court record is what is commonly called an ‘eviction record.’ It doesn’t matter if the landlord drops the case the next day, or if the tenant wins in court. Those court records remain publicly viewable forever. As a result, an eviction record follows a person every time they apply for a new home, making it much more difficult to access safe, stable housing.
Advancing Pennsylvania’s Housing Futures: Sealing Eviction Records for Housing Stability and Economic Prosperity, a new report from PolicyLink and Community Legal Services, illuminates the devastating impact of eviction records on PA families. The report also reviews PA’s eviction prevention strategies during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic and examines federal regulatory and state legislative actions around tenant screening. Read the full report here.
- Advance an ecosystem of responses to a multifaceted problem. This includes modernizing court record-keeping practices, curbing data-scraping, regulating the tenant screening and consumer reporting industry, and requiring fair and objective criteria for tenant screening.
- Improve enforcement of existing protections. This includes strengthening legal frameworks, implementing robust enforcement practices and penalties, creating public education campaigns and stakeholder workshops, and allocating resources for enforcement.
- Create a new framework to seal, expunge, or otherwise shield tenants’ names from unproven, disproven, or outdated eviction records. This includes comprehensive legislative action and balancing transparency and privacy through court rule changes.
Read the full report here.