Report calls for limits on landlords’ access to eviction records

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A new report calls for a change to policies that allow landlords to use eviction records as a way to weed out tenants.

There are nearly 20,000 eviction complaints filed in Philadelphia every year, and they can never be expunged from a tenant’s history, according to Rasheedah Phillips, lead author of the Community Legal Services’ report “Breaking the Record.”

“One of the issues is that records are so easy to access that anyone, regardless of what the outcome of their eviction case is — whether they won or their case or had it withdrawn — that record is often, if not always, used against them when applying for housing in the future,” Phillips said.

Phillips said one eviction record can have lifelong consequences on housing stability, even if a tenant wins the case or works out an agreement.

The report found that eviction complaints disproportionately impact not only the poor but people of color, noting that 74% of people who end up in eviction court are Black women.

And now, with eviction moratoriums set to expire at year’s-end, she fears the situation could spiral out of control.

“A year from now we could have tens of thousands of people unable to access housing simply because a tenant screening company showed that this person has an eviction record and created a score, or a landlord saw that this person had an eviction record and didn’t want to deal with the issue,” said Phillips.

The report calls for a number of policy changes that include restricting or limiting access to eviction records and requiring landlords to take a more nuanced look at renters.

“Look at the whole picture,” said Phillips. “Not just look at the record itself. And we can’t just have these blanket bans where landlords are just saying, we’re not to rent to anybody with any eviction of any type.”