The Reeds: Unsealed Case Aggravates Troubles

The Reeds:  Unsealed Case Aggravates Troubles

The Reed Family had been peacefully living in the Chatham neighborhood since 2010 in a home they rented. Their lives were turned upside down late last year after their landlord lost the building to foreclosure and the foreclosing bank evicted them from their home.

The Reeds knew their building was in foreclosure and they had received the required 90 days’ notice to vacate, so they weren’t shocked or surprised when they were summoned to eviction court. As the Reeds had done nothing wrong nor had the plaintiff alleged any breach of their lease, the Reeds didn't feel they would need an attorney. They showed up to court with their lease in hand only to have the eviction court judge summarily enter an Order of Possession (eviction order) against the family.

Luckily for the Reeds, they were referred to LCBH. The Reeds had a valid lease, and LCBH confirmed that their lease provided them with the right to stay in their home until the end of the lease term. The LCBH legal team jumped into action and filed a motion asking the court to vacate (make void) the eviction order and to stay (put on hold) the execution of the eviction order until the court made a decision on the motion. Not only was the legal team able to reach an agreement that allowed the Reeds to stay in their home through the end of their lease, they also got the Reeds an additional month allowing them time to find new housing, got the case dismissed and had the court record sealed.

The family was greatly relieved to have the additional time to find a new home and to move, but unfortunately, their eviction case hindered their search for a new home, as the case was showing up on some background checks being done by potential landlords. Having an eviction on your record can make it incredibly difficult to find new housing.

Court cases become part of the public record at the time the case is filed with the court. If a court case is sealed, the details of the case are no longer publicly available after the sealing. Credit and other reporting agencies regularly pull court records to update their files. If a sealed eviction record is pulled prior to sealing, it will often remain in the reporting agencies’ files.

Renters living in foreclosed properties have specific legal protections, including a right to have their foreclosure-related eviction cases sealed from the public record, regardless of the case’s outcome. Renters who do not have their foreclosure-related eviction records sealed face serious risks to their credit and thus reduced credit opportunities in the future.

LCBH contacted one prospective landlord on behalf of the Reeds to explain that their eviction was not due to any wrongdoing of the Reeds, but was wholly related to the foreclosure. Nonetheless, the landlord still would not accept the Reeds as tenants. Instead of moving into their own home, the Reeds had to temporarily move in with other family members.

For the last 5 years, LCBH has documented the disastrous impacts the foreclosure crisis has had on renters in its annual foreclosure reports. In this year’s report, LCBH found that only 46% of foreclosure-related eviction cases were sealed from the public record. Despite the protections afforded to renters, the court failed to seal the records in over half of these post-foreclosure eviction cases.

The Reed’s plight is, unfortunately, all too common. While the Reeds are part of the 46% fortunate enough to get their eviction cases sealed, they still encountered serious problems finding new housing because of their eviction case. So while sealing is an important protection for renters in this situation, much more needs to be done.

The Reeds story does end well. They recently found a new home and are just getting settled in. They are looking forward to putting this all behind them and getting on with their lives.