CINCINNATI — The Hamilton County Clerk’s Office has purged more than 400,000 eviction records from its website dating back to the late 90s, because of a new policy that takes eviction cases older than three years out of its online, searchable system.
The records, some dating back to 1998, were often used to screen potential tenants to gauge their rental history, but Clerk Pavan Parikh said many agencies, like Legal Aid Society of Cincinnati, noted it was a large barrier for thousands of tenants who have worked to get back on their feet.
“If it’s not really indicative of anything that reflects your current capacity to pay, are we penalizing people for something that happened earlier in their lives, longer ago, and that’s assuming that they were rightfully evicted,” Parikh said.
Every year, the clerk’s office expects 11,000 cases will automatically be removed from the site.
The records are still available through public requests and background checks unless the evictions have been expunged, but Parikh said he expects this to make a big difference, especially for tenants who may have begun the eviction process but the case was later dismissed. He said the nuance behind that situation is often not clear or available through the online records.
“We thought this would be an appropriate balance between maintaining the need for landlords to have access to some records and really being able to protect people that after three, four, five, six years, going back to 1998,” he said. “What truly is the probative value of an eviction that was rightfully or wrongfully filed against you 20 years ago?”
The policy is modeled after similar models in Dayton and Columbus.
Parikh said it’s part of a series of protections his office is hoping to provide to make it easier for renters to find or keep their housing, including the office’s partnership with the Eviction Help Center.
“The way we look at it is, if you’re coming to the courthouse, to have any of these types of issues, you’re gonna have to talk to our staff so we know that we are a point of contact for you,” he said.