When “Diane” found out she was pregnant nearly 13 years ago, there was no time to celebrate. She’d just found out her hours were getting cut and there was no way for her to make rent. To make matter worse, her landlord, whom she’d had a friendly relationship with up until that point, filed an eviction against her.
Serving as an advocate for her growing family, Diana gathered the money she needed to pay back her rent from a few friends and her tax return. With the money in hand, and the promise of Diane’s new, better-paying job, her landlord agreed to vacate the order.
Diane didn’t find out she still had that eviction on her record until she applied for new housing a couple of years later and was denied. “Even if you finally do get a better paying job, like I did, the eviction is still on your record. That leaves you stuck in undesirable neighborhoods and housing,” Diane said.
Unable to find housing in a new area, Diane rented a new apartment just a few blocks away. Shortly after, she found herself facing another financial setback. Laid off with three kids to feed, Diane couldn’t pay her rent. “I gave her my last dollar in the bank. All my money. I told her I was looking for a job and I was going to file for unemployment that morning,” Diane said. “She still filed an eviction against me.” Despite having receipts of back payment, Diane was still forced to leave.
By November 2021, Diane had a new job and stable income but was still unable to move into decent and affordable housing because of her eviction record. “It defeats the purpose of the new job and the new car, if you’re still living in the same area. I wanted to move forward,” Diane said. That’s when Diane learned about the temporary Illinois law making eviction sealing easier and sought out help from the Law Center for Better Housing. She was instructed to go to a sealing clinic where she worked with LCBH Staff Attorney Ashley Chong and other pro bono volunteers from Skadden to prepare a motion to seal her records. “I was thrilled this program was around. I was trying to move away so I could just breathe easy and not be on the defense,” Diane said. In May, her attorneys presented her case and won, sealing both her old eviction records.
By sealing her old eligible eviction records, Diane was able to leave the Scarlet “E” of eviction, which had marred her records for more than a decade, behind and find new better housing. “With a clean record, from May to October, I got a new car, a new place, and a new job,” Diane said.
To her, permanent sealing legislation is needed so more people can move forward from their unjust evictions and create new lives for themselves and their families. “When you have evictions on your record, it hinders you a lot. And, you should not have to go through fire to get it sealed from your background,” Diane said. Give people a chance to live someplace better.”