House Democrats Introduce Eviction Record Sealing Legislation

HARRISBURG, March 25 – State Reps. Ismail Smith-Wade-El, D-Lancaster, and Elizabeth Fiedler, Rick Krajewski and Majority Appropriations Committee Chairman Jordan Harris, all D-Phila., today introduced H.B. 1769 that would seal some records in certain cases such as no-fault evictions.

“Millions of renters across the commonwealth are struggling to find housing because one mistake or emergency had led to an eviction on their records,” Smith-Wade-El said. “After these no-fault evictions, households often struggle -- sometimes for months -- to find housing, which can result in devastating consequences, including the breakup of families, the loss of employment, and even ending up homeless. This legislation would help give Pennsylvania renters a fair chance at finding housing by establishing procedures for limited access to eviction records. Our Fair Housing Access legislation is a commonsense step that would make it easier for working-class Pennsylvanians to access housing.”

According to the legislators, as soon as an eviction is filed, it becomes a permanent mark on someone’s background, making harder to find housing. The record remains even if the case was withdrawn, the tenant endured domestic violence, or the court found in favor of the tenant.

Smith-Wade-El said that evictions disrupt workforce development for large swaths of communities and strain existing social support systems throughout the state. These records can put vulnerable people in difficult and dangerous situations, putting survivors of domestic violence at risk.

As evictions are disproportionately filed against Black and Latinx women, he said eviction records also may pose major fair housing challenges as more landlords employ automated tenant screening measures, which often contain errors. Private companies sell these tenant screening records to landlords, and landlords often reject any tenant with a single eviction filing on their record.

He said the legislation would help thousands of Pennsylvania families overcome unfair corporate practices to find safe housing. And, in cases where the tenant has been determined to be at fault by a judge, the records would remain accessible to the public for seven years, just like any other record.

Smith-Wade-El is prime sponsor of the bill with Harris, Fiedler and Krajewski as co-prime sponsors. A previous version of the bill was introduced by Fiedler in 2020.

“Secure housing is a fundamental right and should be protected by laws of this commonwealth," said Majority Appropriations Chairman Jordan Harris. “Past financial hardships should not prevent people from being able to secure housing. This legislation will make sure that past financial hardships are no longer an impediment to secure housing for families and individuals across this commonwealth.”

“Evictions are one of the most difficult things a person can go through, and even an unsuccessful filing can threaten a person’s ability to support their family,” Fiedler said. “Whether inaccurate, outdated, or misleading, eviction filings can upend lives. As legislators, we must ensure that all Pennsylvanians can find safe housing free from discrimination.”  

“Facing an eviction hearing is terrifying and there’s no reason it should haunt someone for the rest of their life, especially when no eviction ever takes place,” Krajewski said. “Pennsylvanians dealing with evictions are overwhelmingly working class, Black and brown. They are victims of domestic abuse, laid off workers and our neighbors struggling to make ends meet in a faulty economy. A statewide eviction sealing policy is a commonsense reform that will provide relief and a fresh start for Pennsylvania’s working class.”

State Sens. Jay Costa, D-Allegheny, Nikil Saval, D-Phila., and Judy Schwank, D-Berks, will be introducing a companion bill in the Senate.

“Our current laws penalize working-class, often Black and brown residents, for past mistakes, often condemning them to lives of constant struggle,” Smith-Wade-El said. “This legislation would lift these neighbors up, enabling them to find residences they can call their own and to focus their energies on building their families and careers. It is in Pennsylvania’s best interest that our neighbors are freed from the shackles of past no-fault evictions on their records.”

Inquiries about this legislation can be directed to Smith-Wade-El’s office at 717-283-4218.