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Akron Court Will Not Allow Sealed Eviction Records

Akron ranks first in Ohio for eviction rates and falls in the top 25 nationally. [zimmytws / Shutterstock]
The door of a house with a wooden board nailed across it and a sign reading "Notice: Eviction"

Akron residents with an eviction in their past won’t be able to seal that record, despite local efforts. Rule 39, which aimed to help some previously evicted tenants find new housing, was not adopted by the municipal court.

Rule 39 would have allowed courts to seal eviction records under certain circumstances, giving tenants a better chance to find housing later. Landlords would have been able to speak at hearings on the question of sealing the record to provide relevant information about the eviction.

The rule would have provided an opportunity for people to move into more stable housing, said Fair Housing Contact Service Assistant Director Laura Green-Hull.

“Especially individuals who have a history of eviction a long time ago, and it’s still preventing them from being able to identify safe, affordable housing,” she said.

Green-Hull also serves on Akron’s Eviction Task Force, a group dedicated to addressing the disproportionate eviction rate facing the city. Representatives from the court are members of the task force, she said.

“It’s our hope that with the support of the courts we can look into any concerns they did have with the rule and see if there can be a modification made,” Green-Hull said.

The Akron Municipal Court voted not to adopt the ruling because of “overwhelming responses we received during the public comment period,” a spokesperson told ideastream via email.

“I hope that as more policies or legal aspects are taken, that the community will take a deeper look into them and understand the true nature of them,” Green-Hull said.

The Sound of Ideas Community Tour headed to Akron last month to discuss the city's high eviction rate, including the Rule 39 proposal. The city ranks first in Ohio for eviction rates and falls in the top 25 nationally, according to a Princeton University Study.

Sealed evictions could help some tenants find housing moving forward, Akron Municipal Court Judge Jon Oldham told SOI host Mike McIntyre and the crowd at the Akron-Summit County Public Library. But there would be restrictions on who would be eligible.

“Because we’re not just freely sealing evictions,” Oldham said. “Rule 39 always had proposed that the landlords would be placed on notice of any sealing for an application of eviction. The landlord could show up at that hearing and tell the judge what he or she thought was important for the judge to consider.”

Similar rules had been enacted in other counties, Oldham said, and seem to be effective. But landlords had voiced a desire to keep that record open, he told the audience.

“It’s helping tenants by letting them clean up their records,” Oldham said. “And it’s helping landlords by getting them paid, in situations when they would never get paid on an old judgement.”