It’s estimated that 2.3 million evictions are filed each year, nationwide. That’s four evictions every minute. We understand that eviction can have devastating consequences, leading to stress, health problems, hardship, possible job loss and even homelessness.
And many landlords won’t rent to someone who has had an eviction filed against them, even if the case was dismissed or was unlawful. Even years later, people with this blot on their records are essentially blacklisted from renting housing.
Consider the case of Ashley, whose ex-partner wouldn’t leave her apartment. She was issued a trespass notice to prevent the abusive ex from returning. When she tried to show the trespass notice to her landlord, however, the landlord filed for eviction.
Evictions based on domestic violence victimization are illegal, so the court dismissed the eviction case. Nevertheless, that filing continued to interfere with her finding housing seven years later.
The fear of eviction is real, and it drives some people to avoid court at all costs – even to protect their own rights. They may stay in unlawful apartments, endure unacceptable living conditions or go along with illegal lease terminations just to avoid the stigma of an eviction filing.
Eviction disproportionately affects minorities
According to the ACLU, eviction disproportionately affects people of color, particularly Black women. The nonprofit analyzed nationwide eviction data from 2012 to 2016 and confirmed that Black tenants experience eviction at twice the rate of white tenants. The nonprofit found that Black women faced eviction at twice the rate of white renters in 17 out of 36 states were data was available.
Moreover, Black women are more likely to have an eviction on their record that was ultimately dismissed. In other words, Black women are being denied housing more often than other people even when they’ve won their eviction cases.
What could be done? Eviction sealing is one possibility.
One example of this is the Housing Opportunity and Mobility Through Eviction Sealing (HOMES) Act, which is being considered now in Massachusetts. The act would have courts automatically seal eviction filings unless and until a final eviction judgment occurs. It would keep landlords and tenant screeners from using a false positive – an eviction that was dismissed – to deny housing.
Additionally, it would automatically seal eviction judgments after three years, which would limit the time an eviction could be on a tenant’s record. And, tenants could ask for their records to be sealed for good cause.
What protections do you think we need in New York?