America is currently undergoing an eviction epidemic. In Cuyahoga County alone, over 27,000 eviction cases are filed every year, in large part due to lack of affordable housing options for low-income residents. Extreme hardship can often follow an eviction and make it incredibly difficult for residents to find proper housing. To remedy this, the Cleveland Housing Court adopted Local Rule 6.13 – Motion to Seal Eviction Record.
What This Means
Individuals with evictions on their record from the City of Cleveland can apply to have those records sealed. If an eviction record is sealed (sometimes called an expungement), it will no longer appear online or be available to the general public from the clerk’s office, thereby limiting what landlords can find out about potential renters. This new rule will help to remove a common barrier to safe, affordable housing for many Clevelanders.
Effects of an Eviction
Evictions may remain on a tenant’s record even if the tenant prevailed on the claim (i.e., the eviction wasn’t granted) or if the case was dismissed. Many landlords, when doing their due diligence on potential renters, do not look past an eviction filing to determine whether an eviction was ever granted. In his Fall 2018 quarterly, Housing Court Judge Ronald O’Leary wrote about a woman who had been denied a housing opportunity because of an eviction nearly 20 years prior. Such a reality spurred the Cleveland Housing Court to pass the first rule of its kind in the state of Ohio, as a matter of public policy.
Who Is Eligible
A judge’s decision to seal a record is discretionary. In making its decision, the Court may consider the following circumstances sufficient grounds to seal an eviction:
- The landlord dismissed the eviction before the Court ruled on the complaint.
- The Court dismissed the action or the tenant successfully defended against the eviction complaint.
- The Court granted the eviction, and all of the following occurred:
- Extenuating circumstances led to the eviction;
- At least five years have passed since judgment for the landlord; and
- At least five years have passed since the tenant has had an eviction granted against them in any court;
- The landlord agrees to seal the record.
What Happens Next
A sealed eviction record will not be destroyed. The Clerk of Court will retain a copy of the record on its physical or electronic docket. Records can be unsealed if a need is demonstrated.
Additionally, unlike the expungement or sealing of a criminal record, the sealing of an eviction filing does not permit parties to that eviction filing to act as if the filing never happened. If you are asked on a rental application, for example, whether you have any sealed evictions, you will have to answer truthfully.
The fee to file for eviction expungement is $25. The court will not accept a poverty/indigency affidavit to waive the fee.
Local Rule 6.13 may be read in its entirety here.
A form Motion to Seal Eviction Record is easily accessible online and can be found here.
Please read the instructions carefully before filling out the form and seek help if necessary.