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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2023 - 2024 Regular Session


Posted: March 21, 2023 08:57 AM
From: Senator Nikil Saval
To: All Senate members
Subject: Fair Records for Renters
In the near future, I plan to reintroduce legislation to remove inaccurate eviction records from tenant screening reports, and, in so doing, eliminate a major barrier to stable housing for tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians. Last session, a similar bill was cosponsored by Senators Collett, Street, Fontana, Cappelletti, Kane, Kearney, Schwank, Costa, Santarsiero, L. Williams, and Muth.

In today’s rental market, tenant screening reports serve as the gateway for individuals searching for their new home. These reports include a history of someone’s eviction records. Tenant screening companies “scrape” the data from publicly accessible court websites to determine whether an eviction case was filed against that person. The moment a landlord files an eviction case against a tenant, the tenant is marked by an eviction record. The outcome of the case does not matter—the tenant can win, settle, or have the case against them withdrawn, and the tenant will still have an eviction record for at least ten years, and sometimes longer.

These records have dire consequences. Landlords deny housing to tenants with eviction records at a much higher rate than to those without. Moreover, Black women and families with children bear the brunt of these policies since they are more likely to face an eviction case. This is unjust—no one should be denied housing for an eviction record when they were not actually evicted from their home.

Finally, this problem is widespread and affects tens of thousands of families each year in Pennsylvania: in 2018, for example, there were approximately 80,000 eviction cases filed across the state, and 50,000 of those cases ended with no judgment entered against the tenant. In other words, 63% of the households with eviction filings were subsequently marked with eviction records, even though they were never actually evicted. The short-term impact is clear—the applicant is denied housing—but the long-term impacts are compounding, as individuals and families without secure housing have worse financial and health outcomes.

My legislation corrects this flaw in the eviction record reporting system by ensuring that eviction records are sealed unless and until a landlord wins their eviction case against the tenant. Under my law, documents in eviction cases would be accessible to the parties and their attorneys for the duration of the litigation but remain sealed from the public. After a landlord wins a judgment against the tenant, the records would be unsealed. Cases that are withdrawn by the landlord, end in a settlement, or end in a victory for a tenant, would remain under seal.

My legislation ensures that tenants only have an eviction record when they are evicted. It puts no burden on landlords, credit reporting agencies, or tenant screening companies. It instead ensures that any eviction records they find for a prospective tenant are accurate. Tens of thousands of families in Pennsylvania should not be denied housing because of an eviction case that never resulted in an eviction. Please join me in sponsoring this important piece of legislation.