House Democrats Introduce Eviction Record Sealing Legislation
HARRISBURG, Nov.13 – State Reps. Ismail Smith-Wade-El, D-Lancaster, Elizabeth Fiedler, Rich Krajewski and Majority Appropriations Committee Chairman Jordan Harris, all D-Phila., held a news conference today to highlight their legislation, House Bill 1769, that would seal some records in certain cases such as no-fault evictions.
“We all deserve a safe, warm place to call home, but for millions of renters across the commonwealth, one mistake or emergency can lead to an eviction,” Smith-Wade-El said. “After evictions, households can struggle for months to find housing, which can break up families, risk employment, and lead to homelessness. This legislation would help give Pennsylvania’s renters a fair chance at finding housing by establishing procedures for limited access to eviction records. This legislation is a commonsense step that would make it easier for working-class Pennsylvanians to access housing.”
According to the legislators, as soon as an eviction is filed, it becomes a permanent mark on someone’s background, making harder to find housing. The record remains even if the case was withdrawn, the tenant endured domestic violence, or the court found in favor of the tenant. Evictions disrupt workforce development for large swaths of communities and strain existing social support systems throughout the state. These records can put vulnerable people in difficult and dangerous situations, putting survivors of domestic violence at risk. As evictions are disproportionately filed against Black and Latinx women, eviction records may pose major fair housing challenges as more landlords employ automated tenant screening measures.
The legislation would help thousands of Pennsylvania families overcome unfair corporate practices to find safe housing. In cases where the tenant has been determined to be at fault by a judge, the records would remain public access, just like any other record.
Smith-Wade-El is prime sponsor of the bill with Harris, Fielder and Krajewski as co-prime sponsors. A previous version of the bill was introduced by Fiedler in 2020.
“We are experiencing an affordable housing crisis, which is resulting in an influx of no-fault evictions that will follow many Pennsylvanians for years,” said Harris. “Eviction records, regardless of actual eviction, disproportionately burden Black, brown and poor communities, perpetuating cycles of hardship for mothers, children and workers. This bill is a commonsense reform to the way that we handle evictions, particularly in a no-fault situation. Pennsylvania was the first state to automatically seal criminal records, allowing more than a million Pennsylvanians a fresh start and access to family-sustaining jobs – we can do the same for housing.”
“Evictions are one of the most difficult things a person can go through, and the consequences can threaten their ability to support their families,” Fiedler said. “Eviction filing records, whether inaccurate, outdated or misleading, can upend lives. As legislators, we must ensure that all Pennsylvanians can find safe housing free from discrimination.”
“Facing an eviction hearing is terrifying and there’s no reason it should haunt someone for the rest of their life, even when no eviction ever takes place,” Krajewski said. “The Pennsylvanians dealing with evictions are overwhelmingly working class, Black and brown. They are victims of domestic abuse, laid off workers and our neighbors struggling to make ends meet in a faulty economy. They should be supported in their housing search, not punished.”
State Sens. Jay Costa, D-Allegheny, Nikil Saval, D-Phila., and Judy Schwank, D-Berks, will be introducing a companion bill in the Senate.
Inquiries about this legislation can be directed to Smith-Wade-El’s office at 717-283-4218.