Data Brokers May Report COVID-19–Related Evictions for Years

August 5, 2020

The avalanche of evictions that’s been imminent during months of economic standstill is picking up speed, and it’s headed to the doorsteps of millions of Americans. Few rules govern what information can be reported by tenant screening companies or how it’s gathered, as The Markup and The New York Times recently revealed in an investigation into the industry.

Housing court records, which arise from disputes and debts—or mere misunderstandings—are particularly problematic because they are devoid of detail. Background screeners often scoop up only what they can scrape from free court indexes: the names of the landlord and tenant and the address of the property. They often don’t even include the resolution of the case.

“The vast majority of [eviction] cases are settled, just like any other civil case,” said Eric Dunn, director of litigation at the National Housing Law Project. “Most of the time, the landlord and the tenant will come to some kind of agreement to resolve them.”

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