Fiedler introduces legislation to remove erroneous eviction records
HARRISBURG, April 15 - Last week Rep. Elizabeth Fiedler, D-Phila., introduced HB2382, a bill that will ensure fair access to housing for tens of thousands of families across Pennsylvania- by expunging or sealing not for cause eviction records.
Under the current system, tenants have an eviction record from the moment a case is filed against them, regardless of the outcome of the proceedings. Even if they never end with an eviction, if a case is withdrawn, and even if a tenant wins and is found not at fault. The filing stays on their public record and haunts them for years, making it nearly impossible to secure stable new housing. Many landlords rely on general record screening and will not rent to anyone with a filing on record, often disqualifying otherwise ideal applicants.
“Every Pennsylvanian has a human right to housing,” Fiedler said. “It is unacceptable that we have a system where people are being denied housing because they have an eviction filing on their record even though they were found not at fault. No one should be punished for something they didn’t do, or for past hardships that were no fault of their own.”
“Many of my clients have been denied access to housing because of their eviction records, oftentimes without ever being evicted,” said George Donnelly, Independence Fellow at the Public Interest Law Center. “These records are created right when the case is filed, and tenants have no opportunity to clear this record in the future.
“Tenants should not be punished for winning their cases or reaching amicable agreements with their landlords. This eviction expungement bill would ensure that tenants throughout the state only have an eviction record when they actually lose their eviction case. In doing so, it would remove an enormous barrier to housing for tens of thousands of Pennsylvania families.”
HB2382 expunges past eviction records that were found in a tenant’s favor, settled, or satisfied, and creates a similar sealing protocol for new records going forward, so that people aren’t punished for the sole fact they have a case filed against them. These measures are needed now more than ever.
“While I have been working with advocates on drafting this legislation long before the COVID-19 emergency began, the current public health crisis underlines why these protections are so necessary,” Fiedler said. “Despite the emergency moratorium on evictions, there was still a gap during which landlords were able to begin the filing process. With the ongoing uncertainty of the situation, some tenants could find themselves leaving this moratorium period with an eviction record, even if they are found not at fault or come to an understanding with their landlord.”
HB2382 has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee.