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Proposed bill will keep eviction records during pandemic confidential in NJ

Posted at 6:49 PM, Oct 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-14 18:49:05-04

JERSEY CITY — Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, eviction filings across New Jersey have ballooned to 26,000 to date.

Any real estate agent will tell you, having an eviction on your record can have a damaging impact on a tenant's credit and potential housing in the future.

“It’s a huge red flag and it is almost always a dealbreaker,” Effie Drimonis, a real estate agent based in Passaic and Essex counties, explained.

In an effort to soften that blow, lawmakers introduced a bill in the state assembly that will keep eviction court records confidential during the pandemic.

The legislation will also prohibit landlords from requesting eviction records, something housing advocates like James Williams — Director of Racial Justice Policy at Fair Share Housing Center — say should’ve been on the books a long time ago.

“The idea that evicting someone is going to make your individual situation better as a landlord but the detriment you cause the community as a whole, those multiples are infinite,” Williams said.

While the benefits are clear, blocking a landlord from eviction history could cause more harm than good, according to Drimonis.

“So not only are they losing tenants but now they have less of an ability to sift through tenants that are potentially qualified because of this bill,” she said.

With a looming eviction tsunami set to take place in the Garden State when Gov. Phil Murphy’s eviction moratorium expires, finding a middle ground is now the objective.

Lawmakers are vowing to rework the legislation to be fair to both sides.