A new Rule at the Cleveland Housing Court may give tenants with past evictions a new start.
When an eviction is filed against a tenant in court, the case becomes part of the court’s public record. No matter what happens at the end of the case, even if the court rules in favor of the tenant and against the landlord, the case typically remains visible to the public. Because most landlords screen renters by searching their eviction case history, an old eviction case, no matter the outcome, can make it very difficult for a tenant to find housing.
Under a new Rule (Local Rule 6.13), which became effective on December 31, 2018, a tenant in Cleveland can now ask the court to seal some eviction records so they no longer appear on the tenant’s public case history.
Not all eviction records can be sealed under the new rule. If the court dismisses the eviction or rules in favor of the tenant, the case should qualify for sealing immediately. However, if a landlord wins an eviction judgment against a tenant, the tenant must wait at least five years from the date of the judgment (or any later eviction judgment) to seal the record. Also, the tenant must show that “extenuating” (or unusual) circumstances lead to the eviction. The new rule only applies to evictions in the Cleveland Housing Court on the 13th floor of the Justice Center.
A tenant who wants to seal an eviction case must file a “Motion to Seal Eviction Record” with the court. The tenant may have to pay a $25 filing fee. Tenants can download a fill-in-the-blank motion and filing instructions from the “Forms” section of the court’s website (http://clevelandhousingcourt.org). Most tenants should be able to complete and file the motion without help from a lawyer. The Cleveland Housing Court Specialists can answer questions about how to fill in the form and file it.
After a tenant files a motion to seal an eviction record, the court will decide whether to grant or deny the request. The court will consider a variety of factors in each case, including whether the landlord opposes the motion, or whether the tenant still owes the landlord money.
Even if a record is sealed, it does not go away completely. The Court Clerk will still have access to the record, which can be retrieved and unsealed if ordered by a judge.
The new Rule 6.13 is a powerful tool that should help many Clevelanders struggling to find housing. For more information about the eviction sealing process, contact a Housing Court Specialist at the Cleveland Housing Court on the 13th Floor of the Justice Center, 1200 Ontario Street, Cleveland, OH 44113, or call 216.664.4295. Specialists are available for drop-in visits Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
This article was written by Mike Russell and appeared in The Alert: Volume 35, Issue 1.