For families and individuals facing eviction in California, troubles rarely cease after a court hearing – even if the tenants win their case and aren’t evicted.
Instead, thousands of tenants across the state find themselves with tarnished credit and blacklisted from renting elsewhere, regardless of whether or not they prevailed in court.
That’s because under existing California law, tenants facing eviction lawsuits have 60 days after filing to win their cases. If the deadline is exceeded, court records and identities from an eviction lawsuit become publicly available.
The issue worsens when tenant screening companies compile this information, including names of those who were not ultimately evicted, and create blacklists that landlords can use to check an applying tenant’s history.
But now, there’s a bill on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk that could put that to an end.
Authored by Assemblymember David Chiu (D- San Francisco), AB 2819 would reform California law to protect innocent tenants from damaged credit and blacklists if eviction actions are resolved in their favor.
“Essentially if the landlord wins, then [records] will be public,” said Jith Meganathan, a policy advocate for Western Center on Law & Poverty. “We are trying to ensure there is accurate reporting of people who are actually evicted.”
According to Meganathan, “A lot of cases go past the 60-day mark, and tenants’ information may remain on these lists for up to seven years thereafter, making it all but impossible for them to obtain rental housing in competitive housing markets.”
Two of the bill’s co- sponsors, Western Center on Law & Poverty and the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, wrote a letter to Gov. Brown last month stressing the importance of their bill.
“All too often, tenants are subjected to eviction proceedings through no fault of their own—for example, in cities like Oakland with high housing demand, eviction proceedings are frequently begun as an illegal attempt to remove a law-abiding tenant so that the landlord can significantly increase the rent,” the letter reads.
The measure has garnered diverse support from organizations and institutions ranging from the Consumers Union, ACLU, Tenants Together, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, California Nurses Association, San Francisco Tenants Union and many others.
Advocates of the bill say they are optimistic it will receive the governor’s signature by its deadline on Sept. 30, and that legislative changes like these are crucial in today’s housing crisis.
“The first way you help a family thrive is making sure they have a place to call home,” said Phil Hernandez, a recent Berkeley Law graduate who originally had the idea for the bill.
“The best way to do that is making sure people can stay in their home, especially when they haven’t done anything wrong,” said Hernandez.