Screened Out of Housing: The Impact of Misleading Tenant Screening Reports and the Potential for Criminal Expungement as a Model for Effectively Sealing Evictions

Polk, Katelyn | April 30, 2020

Having an eviction record “blacklists” tenants from finding future housing. Even renters with mere eviction filings—not eviction orders—on their records face the harsh collateral consequences of eviction. This Note argues that eviction records should be sealed at filing and only released into the public record if a landlord prevails in court. Juvenile record expungement mechanisms in Illinois serve as a model for one way to protect people with eviction records. Recent updates to the Illinois juvenile expungement process provided for the automatic expungement of certain records and strengthened the confidentiality protections of juvenile records. Illinois protects juvenile records because it recognizes that a young person’s behavior does not define how he or she will act as an adult. Similarly, evictions due to foreclosure, discrimination, or retaliation, for example, do not predict a tenant’s future behavior. Reliance on these records is misplaced. Sealing eviction records at the point of filing and holding private screening companies accountable for reporting sealed records would protect tenants who are currently haunted by the ghost of eviction without ever having been evicted.