An Act promoting housing opportunity and mobility through eviction sealing (HOMES) 193 S.956 H.1690


Eviction sealing would let renters seal their prior evictions.

  • It would add work for the courts, as potentially hundreds of thousands of petitions would be filed, each with its own notices and hearings.
  • It would offer limited benefit to renters, because the good renters are bucketed in with the bad.
  • It would require journalists obtain court permission before writing stories.
  • It would require debt collectors obtain court permission before disclosing judgments.
  • It would remove landlords’ ability to evaluate most housing history on a rental application.
  • It would drive landlords to tougher screening on income and credit score.
  • It would require credit reporting agencies to continuously monitor all dockets ever for their disappearance, or else to omit all eviction records from their reports.

The whole idea of eviction sealing should be scrapped and replaced with anti-discrimination protections like we have for criminal records. We have drafted the alternative.

Video Summary


The First Hearing was May 9th

MassLandlords' Executive Director attended in person and explained how eviction sealing won't work the way the legislature hopes it would.

Submit Written Testimony
Tell the legislature why you value being able to see the true eviction record and judge for yourself. Write two short paragraphs about how you screen tenants and that you give people a fair shot at explaining their record. Written testimony is accepted any time until the committee acts on a bill.

Email us a draft and we'll show you where to file it.

Make a One-Time or Recurring Contribution
Invest in your business! Hearings are extremely expensive. It took several days of staff time to write and edit testimony for this hearing. We waited over three hours at the hearing to speak. We rented a meeting space nearby to coordinate volunteers. Our travel and expense policy covers parking and lunch for our attendees.


Read Our Testimony

Coversheet and table of contents for the MassLandlords eviction sealing testimony.
Read our testimony.

Official Links


See Also

Full Text Explained

Policy Idea Opposed by Membership
Our ongoing policy priorities survey shows a majority of members strongly oppose this policy proposal.
Bill Opposed by Staff
MassLandlords staff oppose bill text below.

Chapter 239 is “Summary process (eviction) for possession of land.”


A “consumer report” is defined as anything used for evaluating a rental application. This definition parallels that of G.L. Chapter 93 Section 50, which defines consumer credit reports as information used to evaluate creditworthiness. That law (Section 51) exempts rental property owners from the requirement to obtain a written release before screening for housing history. This bill seems to intend to override that, but fails to edit that section.

A “consumer reporting agency” would include your screening company. This expands the definition of “Consumer reporting agency” in G.L. Chapter 93 Section 50 by including different types of entities, but otherwise is the same.

Records could be sealed in any court with jurisdiction over summary process.

Every document the courts produce in connection with a summary process case filed by a landlord or a small claims case filed by a renter would be covered. Small claims cases filed by landlords are not covered (possible drafting error: see “lessor action”).

All evictions are covered.

A category of cases is defined as civil suits brought by a renter or occupant against their landlord. This wording would by implication extend rights to trespassers and unauthorized occupants to bring suit against an owner, manager or lessor.

Possible drafting error: The way “lessor action” is used elsewhere in this bill, it implies a landlord suing a renter. This would be a serious drafting error, as “lessor action” is here defined as something brought by a renter against a landlord.


This broad language defines a whole class of cases one would normally not consider a no-fault eviction to be a no-fault eviction. We know from other law that tenancies are terminated by the issuance of a notice to quit. This bill says that after a no-fault notice is used to terminate, any other case brought by a lessor including a for-cause eviction will also be treated as a no-fault eviction case.

As soon as a no-fault eviction is over, it may be sealed.

This is a great example of how “splitting the difference” on eviction sealing helps no one. This bill is in its third round of edits (fifth year) and still no closer to helping either side. Earlier versions of this bill sealed no-fault cases upon filing. This was clearly wrong, so now we would seal no-fault cases only after conclusion. This is still wrong:

Renters may be in court with a no-fault eviction that is really not their fault (a landlord who has not tried “cash for keys”). Such a renter should be finding a new place to live. While the case is ongoing, the case remains public. Now every apartment to which the renter applies is going to see the eviction. It’s possible in some places the renter will be unfairly denied, making this a very weak renter protection. The root cause of allegedly improper landlord screening practices still has not been addressed.

On the other hand, a renter may be in court as part of a broader story of serious disagreement with the landlord. Now as soon as the case is concluded, this story is unknowable. Even if the renter loses, their case may be sealed leaving them free to repeat the same bad behavior on their next unsuspecting landlord.

This wording fails to address concerns of renters and landlords both. We are on the wrong path with eviction sealing.

A nonpayment eviction may be sealed if all of the following conditions are met:

  • The case ended four years ago or more;
  • Since then, there have been no evictions and the renter has not sued any landlord;
  • The renter swears that they had an economic hardship, and still have an economic hardship that prevents them from paying off the judgment.

This is another example of a weak tenant protection that will make it impossible for landlords to screen.

A renter with a nonpayment case they wish to have sealed must show two contradictory things: first, that they have been rich enough to avoid housing court over the past four years, and second, that they are poor enough to be excused for not paying the prior judgment. This combination ensures that only lawyers will win, as both renter and landlord argue over whether the case should be sealed.

A landlord with a nonpayment case will also lose. A judgment for money is good for 20 years. Debt collection agencies may monitor the news in combination with court records to identify when a judgment may become collectible (e.g., renter wins a state Lottery promotion), and may purchase this judgment from a landlord. Under this bill, that will never happen. Nonpayment cases disappear while the judgment remains in effect. It’s now up to each individual landlord to monitor their renters for 20 years to determine if a judgment has become collectible.

A for-cause eviction may be sealed if all of the following conditions are met:

  • The for-cause case ended more than 7 years ago;
  • No other for-cause case has been brought against the renter since.

For a small landlord who cannot afford even a single eviction, this is no reassurance, especially where the for-cause case was a nightmare scenario that dragged on for multiple years.

Also, this wording is a good example of how a law can create a perverse incentive. If a landlord wanted to make sure that a renter’s for-cause eviction were never sealed, all they would have to do is file another for-cause eviction against them every seven years. They don’t have to win, they just have to file, and the prior record becomes unsealable. Does this really help renters defend against bad landlord behavior? No.

This is catch-all language that applies to all evictions being sealed. The court will make an eviction sealing request form. In each court that heard the case, the form has to be used to seal the case in that court.

In each case, the bill requires the landlord to receive notice of a renter’s request to seal their record. The bill does not, however, notify any consumer reporting agencies that previously obtained the court record. Notifying all possible CRAs would require a solution neither required nor even contemplated in the bill. The Trial Courts could publish a list of sealed cases by date sealed and docket number. Then all CRAs could review the registry to update their databases accordingly. This is not in the bill.

Absent coordinated publication of newly sealed cases, if a consumer reporting agency wanted to comply with the law, they would have to either:

  • Continuously monitor all eviction cases to find which ones have disappeared and are presumed sealed; or
  • Conservatively treat all cases as sealed as soon as they could be.

This will likely have the unintended consequence of CRAs removing data from their databases that is not sealed:

  • No no-fault cases or common nuisance cases will be added to a consumer report, since they would have to come off again in an uncertain matter of months;
  • All non-payment cases will be deleted after four years;
  • All remaining cases will be deleted after seven years.

Any judgment in an eviction for common nuisance can be sealed after 7 years, or immediately if the plaintiff does not win. “Common nuisance” means prostitution, alcohol, illegal casinos, drugs, explosives, other crime, violence against public housing authority staff.

Note the contrast with for-cause evictions: in a for-cause eviction brought under other law, the case remains open for 7 years regardless of who wins. In common nuisance cases, these cases can be sealed immediately if case cannot be proved.

This bill would seek to license journalists, but only journalists who are not engaged in “commercial purposes” like selling newspapers. If NECN or another “commercial” news outlets wanted to write a follow-up story four years from now about, for example, Stoneham Police Officer Detective Sgt. Robert Kennedy, they could not if Detective Sgt. Kennedy had sealed his cases. There is explicitly no permission to use a sealed record for commercial reporting. This language is highly problematic and antithetical to a free society.

This section would interpose serious barriers in debt collection operations. A judgment lasts for 20 years, but a nonpayment case will be sealed after four years. Each debt collection operation in the subsequent 16 years would have to obtain explicit court approval. Disclosing a judgment to others for “collection of a money judgment” is only possible if “the court deems necessary or appropriate.”

You can ask the court to unseal your own record for you. Possible drafting error: The bill does not say the court must do it, only that you may ask.

A drafting error here suggests CRAs have 30 days to notice a case has been sealed and remove it from their reports. There is no provision to notify CRAs.

Possible drafting error: non-payment has been omitted as a possible case descriptor.

Poor drafting here omits the word “within”. CRAs have 30 days to notice a record is sealed.

The enforcement mechanism here requires a renter to have suffered actual damage, to make a complaint against the CRA via the Attorney General (see below), and to prevail. This reduces the entire eviction sealing exercise to a very time-consuming discrimination process, with the same enforcement-dependent outcomes, but with much greater complexity and use of court staff time.

Because only the attorney general has enforcement power, this gives fewer venues for a complaint (the courts do not have jurisdiction to hear complaints, nor does the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination).


Poor drafting probably meant the quote to end. Basically, a disclaimer would have to be put on a rental application encouraging renters to seal records and then state “no record” in response to a question about prior litigation.

This language seems to exempt every single owner from the rental application language until the AG communicates with them specifically. This likely signals poor drafting.

This wording would have to appear on the court form to request a record be sealed.

If a renter pays off the amount a court said they owed, the landlord must tell the courts they have paid. This is good!

The language also covers mediated agreements, which is nonsensical. Most mediated agreements have no discernible “win/lose” status for either the renter or the landlord, because they are designed to keep both in business together indefinitely. If a renter and a landlord live happily forever after until one or the other dies, must the surviving party file a satisfaction of mediated agreement?  What about if a renter decides to move out after many years of post-mediation stability? This seems poorly conceived.

If a landlord fails to report a judgment as satisfied, a renter can ask the court to report their judgment as satisfied.

In addition to all the other ways a case can be sealed, if a judgment is satisfied, then the case can be sealed regardless of the timelines above.

The same court procedure for sealing applies to satisfied judgments.


This bill would require all other consumer reports to defer to this section on eviction records.


SECTION XX. Subsection (h     ) of section 15 of Chapter 239 shall take effect upon passage.




Eviction Movers Proxima