UPDATE AUGUST 18, 2016: This bill has made it to the governor’s desk, and is likely to be passed.
Under California’s unlawful detainer (UD) “masking” law,” UD court filings are masked, or hidden from public view for 60 days following the initial eviction court filing, and then are automatically unmasked. AB 2819 will permanently mask all UD actions, unless the rental property owner prevails in court, or seeks a default judgment in court. AB 2819 unfairly places the cost, burden, and responsibility for ensuring tenant defaults are made public on the backs of rental property owners.
Among the reasons to oppose:
- Proponents are egregiously misrepresenting the bill. Proponents are publicly arguing that UD actions are the only lawsuits that become public before judgment is reached. This statement wholly misrepresents the law. CA Civil Code 1785.13 specifically allows all lawsuits and judgments to be reported on consumer credit reports unless they are more than seven years old or the statute of limitations has expired. That means if this bill passes, the reverse will be true: UD actions will be the only type of lawsuits that must remain masked until a judgment is reached.
- AB 2819 will unfairly keep a majority of all UD actions hidden from public view. Most property owners who get possession of their properties before a UD proceeding concludes will not go back to court for a default judgment. Nor should they have to. They have already lost months of rent, which they will never recover, and have paid exorbitant court and attorney fees to file the UD action. They should not have to expend more time and energy, and pay additional attorney and court costs for a default judgment just to ensure the record is made public. Because default judgments will not be sought, thousands of rent default records will remain hidden from public view. As a result, landlords will not be able to fully assess prospective tenants’ ability to pay. The bill unfairly serves to blindfold landlords during the application process. Legislation should instead focus on making it easier for tenants to correct their records if any mistakes occur.
- Like credit defaults, bankruptcies, mortgage defaults, and other debt obligations, non-payment of rent is a civil matter of public record and concern. Whether it’s a mortgage, credit, loan, or other extension of goods or property based on trust, credit and default histories are paramount to any decision to lend, loan or provide. That is why non-payment defaults are always made public immediately upon a default filing without the need for a legal judgment. Non-payment of rent should be treated no different. Tenant defaults are a matter of public concern and relied upon by all rental property owners at the time of evaluating prospective tenants. Eviction records must be made public to ensure rental property owners are fully apprised of a tenants’ rental history.
- AB 2819 is contrary to California’s open records and public access policies. When California’s masking law first went into effect in 1991, this legislature stated, “it is the policy of the State of California to promote open access to public records. It is in the interest of the public to assure, to the greatest extent possible, that there is open public access to court records, including civil case files. (See SB 892, statutes of 1991, Legislative Counsel Digest.)
Please vote NO!
The following apartment associations are OPPOSED to AB 2819 (Chiu) and request your “NO” VOTE: