Q1 Report - Issue Update: Eviction Redactions

For the thousands of individuals and families who face eviction in Dane County each year, a single eviction can be an insurmountable barrier to securing a safe, affordable and decent home in the future. That’s because landlords routinely use the online court records system CCAP to screen potential tenants and deny housing to those who have an eviction on their record – even if the case was dismissed, settled, or filed erroneously.

It’s difficult to overstate the harm that results when landlords shut tenants out of housing in their community, especially because tenants who have had an eviction filed against them are already much more likely to be facing other significant barriers to stable housing. And when vacant, affordable housing is in as critically short supply as it is now, a quick CCAP search is an easy way for landlords to displace the poor and marginalized among us.

To improve housing stability for tenants across the county, EDDP staff and its partner organizations have focused on redacting the names of hundreds of tenants who have had evictions filed against them. Since the start of 2023, EDDP partner attorneys have filed 644 motions to redact with 95% of these motions successfully resulting in tenants’ names being removed from CCAP, according to a TRC analysis of court records.

“We know that the odds of a tenant being approved for an apartment with an eviction on their record is slim,” Chrisbelly Antimo, TRC’s Associate Director said. “Redaction is a potent way to reduce some of this harm that results from an eviction filing.”

The vast majority of redactions were filed by EDDP partner attorneys: 87.1% of all motions were filed by EDDP partners, while roughly 1% of motions were filed by non-EDDP partner attorneys, highlighting the gap in tenant advocacy that the EDDP fills.

Tenants successfully filed motions to redact pro se (without representation from an attorney) but did so at a lower rate and efficacy than attorneys did, the TRC found. Tenants filed 83 motions and succeeded in having their names redacted in 79.1% of these cases. While 66% of tenants have gone unrepresented in eviction court since the start of 2023, only 11% of these tenants ended up filing redaction motions themselves.

Most tenants who have an eviction filed against them do not get their names redacted, however, which means their name stays on CCAP for at least two years if the case is dismissed and up to twenty years if the tenant receives a judgment of eviction. Roughly 75% of tenants who had an eviction since 2023 have not had their names redacted.

This is due in part to the complicated and time-consuming nature of the redaction process itself. EDDP partner attorneys say the process can be difficult to navigate, with more complicated cases taking significant investments of time and sometimes requiring a hearing in front of a judge. These motions require legal knowledge and argument to be successful, which can essentially prohibit tenants from filing motions pro se.

It’s also exceedingly rare for a tenant to have a redaction motion granted when they have received a judgment of eviction: tenants who received a judgment of eviction had their motions to redact granted in only 5 cases since 2023. (Tenants in another 12 cases had their names redacted either before or after defaulting on a stipulated dismissal agreement.)

And in some cases a redaction may not be enough. Some landlords pay to have access to the databases of online scraping tools which collect the names of tenants as soon as they are filed.

The redaction process should be more accessible for tenants and more investment is needed in providing attorneys to assist tenants in filing these motions. Creative solutions and additional resources will be needed to support long-term efforts such as eviction redaction clinics.