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Business & Economy

Central Ohio advocates say kids can be listed on evictions, are at risk for long-term consequences

notice of eviction placed on a door
flickr.com

A housing advocate in central Ohio warns that more kids are being listed on eviction proceedings, as eviction rates increase. Though the problem isn't widespread, it can have huge consequences on the children's future access to credit and rental housing.

When a person is evicted, they face more consequences than the often devastating loss of their home.

The debt from back rent is reported to credit agencies. And when a person looks for new housing, tenant screening companies list the eviction on reports that are given to landlords.

In some cases, the consequences of eviction can also impact the minors that were also living at the property.

“They're just a kid who lives with mom and dad," said Carlie Boos, Executive Director of the Affordable Housing Alliance of Central Ohio. “They are being listed as defendants, even though they have no legal responsibility to pay rent.”

Boos is asking landlords, parents, attorneys and courts to protect kids and make sure their names aren’t included in eviction proceedings.

“This is not all landlords, this is not most landlords. This is a very, very small sect of people. And I am really hopeful that this is all happening in just a good faith mistake,” Boos said.

Franklin County Municipal Court Legal Director and magistrate Gene Edwards said it’s still pretty rare to see minor children listed on eviction complaints.

Evictions are up, driven by housing scarcity, and Boos says so is the frequency of minors listed on eviction notices.

“Franklin County is experiencing an absolute wave in evictions. We are seeing more evictions come in everyday than we have ever felt in our lives. We are on track this year to exceed 24,000 evictions. That would be setting a record. Last year, we set a record.”

Princeton University's Eviction Lab is a nonprofit that tracks eviction numbers in some states and cities.

The program's data shows eviction filings in Columbus are 35% higher than they were before the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Cincinnati, evictions are up just 4% compared to pre-pandemic levels.

Evictions are actually down in Cleveland. The report says evictions are 27% lower than before the pandemic.

Boos worries the wave of evictions could cause consequences for minors that they shouldn’t have to shoulder.

“I would imagine none of those kids sat down in a closing room or signed a lease. That's not what kids do. And there's no legal responsibility there. We're seeing this happen more and more and more," she said.

Edwards said if a landlord's attorney does add minor children to an eviction notice, magistrates in the court honor requests to remove the kids.

"When the issue is raised before the court's magistrates, they consistently honor requests to remove their names from the complaint," Edwards said.

Edwards said there's a process to remove eviction cases from online records.

"The court has also created a process for requesting removal of eviction case records from the Clerk of Court's online records and the court's self help center provides free assistance with that process,” Edwards said.

Boos worries some families going through evictions won’t know to ask for those accommodations.

“If you don't have an attorney and you aren't trained to be able to spot for that, you're not going to know how to navigate that yourself, when you combine that with the fact that getting an eviction sealing and getting that record hidden from public view is incredibly difficult and incredibly unpredictable," she said.

Evictions should stay on tenant screening records for seven years. But that's often not the case, said Jyoshu Tsushima, managing attorney at the Legal Aid Society of Columbus.

"Tenant credit reports are somewhat unregulated, and a lot of the credit reporters are not complying with the FDCPA, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act," Tsushima said.

Boos said evictions records often follow a person for life.

“It means that you are absolutely going to see children who were, you know, two years old, three years old today. They will grow up, they will get an education. They will go out into the world or they're going to try and rent their first apartment, and they're going to be denied, because there's an eviction record from when they were a baby sitting there,” Boos said.

The effects of eviction already fall heavily on children.

An extensive, years-long study of evictions by Eviction Lab with the U.S. Census Bureau found eviction impacted Black families more often, across all income levels. And families of any race with children were more likely to be evicted than people without children.

Boos said kids suffer from long-term impacts of eviction.

Kids going through eviction can lose an entire year of learning, hurting their math and language skills. They’re also more likely to need medical treatment, Boos said.

“So that's something that a child can absolutely carry with them through their entire lives. It's going to affect how they perform in high school, how they enter the job market. These are long-term consequences," Boos said.

Boos also said Ohio renters need the right to legal counsel and mediation in eviction proceedings, along with a clear and defined process for evictions to be removed from a person's record.

She supports a senate bill that would require it. The bipartisan bill, sponsored by State Sen. Michele Reynolds (R-Canal Winchester) and Hearcel F. Craig (D-Columbus) has had two hearings since it was introduced earlier this year.

Renee Fox is a reporter for 89.7 NPR News.