Evictions can show up on consumer reports for up to seven years.
Gov. Doug Ducey signed HB 2485 on June 8. It will go into effect on “General Effective Day,” which will come 90 days after the legislative session ends.
The Arizona Senate passed a bill on June 1 to help lessen the long-term effects of eviction filings.
The bill introduced by Republicans in the House passed 25-4, with Republican Sens. Rick Gray, Warren Petersen, David Livingston, and JD Mesnard voting against it.
HB 2485 requires the court to seal an eviction record if a judge dismisses an eviction or rules in favor of a tenant. A case must be dismissed if a tenant is able to pay the full amount they owe plus legal fees before the case comes before the judge. A case can also be dismissed for legal reasons—for example, if a landlord didn’t give the tenant proper notice.
Tenants can also have records sealed if they and their landlord file a written agreement to have the order of eviction set aside.
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When eviction records are sealed, they would only be accessible to parties in the case and the court.
Jay Young, executive director of the Southwest Fair Housing Council, told The Copper Courier the bill is “a great step forward to help protect tenants and tenants’ rights.”
“What I think is great about this bill is that it’s basically just sealing the records of folks who were facing an eviction but actually didn’t get evicted, right?” Young said. “By sealing their records so that it can’t be seen, it’s not really hiding anything from landlords, but it is making it so that landlords can’t see that and still use that against them.”
HB 2485 has already passed the House and now heads to Gov. Doug Ducey’s desk for signing.
Having an eviction—even just a filing, regardless of the case’s outcome—on record can prevent tenants from finding a new place to live. Evictions can show up for up to seven years on consumer reports, which landlords often check when a potential tenant applies to rent from them.
It can be difficult for people who have been evicted to find a landlord who will accept them, making it even harder for them to find future housing.
“People that have evictions or something similar to an eviction on their record often have the most difficulty finding housing,” Young said, “and it causes a significant amount of housing instability and can even lead to homelessness.”
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Maxine Becker, an attorney and tenant legal advocate for Arizona nonprofit Wildfire, said sometimes consumer reports only have a thumbs up or down listed when it comes to evictions, with no information as to how the case played out.
“A continuing trend in the eviction landscape and in consumer records and big data is that tenant screening companies will scoop up records, and no matter what the outcome is—good or bad—on an eviction, it reflects negatively on a tenant,” she told The Copper Courier.
Becker said this bill has the potential to impact a “significant” number of tenants—of the average of 80,000 evictions being filed per year in Arizona in pre-pandemic times, about 30% of cases in the counties Wildfire studied (Coconino, Maricopa, and Pima) were dismissed.
Becker said the sealing of records like this isn’t new—Arizona has passed laws sealing certain criminal records.
“I think Arizona has set a policy precedent that if you are able to pay off your debt and you’re able to move forward, that we want to encourage … all Arizonans to do that, and that we want to give them the full range of life opportunities,” she said.