Ohioans’ Eviction Records Could Be Expunged Under New Bipartisan Bill

A bipartisan Ohio bill proposes to allow eviction records to be expunged under certain circumstances.

Apr 16, 2021 at 1:00 pm

click to enlarge L to R: Ohio Sens. Hearcel Craig (D-Columbus) and Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard) - Photo: Ohio Capital Journal
Photo: Ohio Capital Journal
L to R: Ohio Sens. Hearcel Craig (D-Columbus) and Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard)

When a tenant faces eviction, the filing can stay with them for years — potentially impacting their ability to find stable housing again.

A bipartisan bill (SB158) introduced by Sens. Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard) and Hearcel Craig (D-Columbus) proposes to allow eviction records to be expunged under certain circumstances.

A tenant would be able to request to have their eviction records expunged. A judge could authorize expungement if they feel the record “is no longer a reasonable predictor of future tenant behavior” and if expunging it would be in the “interests of justice.”

Landlords who initiated the original eviction case would be given the opportunity to argue against expunging the record, which the judge would take into consideration.

The bill is written to make expungement more likely as time has passed since the eviction.

The Ohio Poverty Law Center (OPLC) and the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio (COHHIO) are advocating for this bill to be enacted.

"SB158 would allow an individual with an eviction on their record for three or more years to apply to their local court to have that eviction record expunged, or deleted," Megan O'Dell of the Ohio Poverty Law Center tells CityBeat. "An eviction record is not necessarily an eviction judgment. Even if a landlord does not prevail at trial or files an eviction erroneously, there is still a record of that filing. This is extremely detrimental to the tenant because future landlords may not rent to the individuals based upon that record." 

Bill Faith, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio, said in a statement that tenants who temporarily struggle to pay rent “should not be punished for decades.”

“This pandemic year made it painfully obvious that many of Ohio’s renters are vulnerable in an economic downturn,” he added. “This legislation offers some redemption to renters who hit a rough patch, to ensure that a streak of bad luck doesn’t drive them into homelessness.” 

An eviction moratorium was issued for Ohio tenants in 2020 and has been extended through June 30, 2021. That has not stopped landlords from filing eviction notices, and some courts are still hearing eviction cases.

Ohio Democrats have proposed separate legislation that would block courts from issuing judgments on eviction cases until the pandemic state of emergency order is lifted. 

On Thursday, the Ohio House joined the Senate in having unanimously approved the allocation of $465 million in federal funding toward rent and utility assistance.

A version of this story was originally published by the Ohio Capital Journal and republished here with permission.