Children are being named as defendants in eviction cases. It needs to stop.

This attorney explains the unfair tactic and how it can impact children for the rest of their lives.

Children are being named as defendants in eviction cases.
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Despite a nationwide order to halt evictions during the pandemic, some landlords across the country are still filing to evict their tenants.

Whether the cases are justified or not, new attention is being paid to a tactic that involves the children of renters.

Emily A. Benfer, an attorney and law professor in North Carolina, explained the process on Twitter.

"In court this week, a landlord listed children as defendants in an eviction," she wrote. "The judge let it slide. [North Carolina] doesn't seal eviction records-so even if the order is vacated, the children will have an eviction on their record, starting the downward fall, before they even enter preschool."


"Even when tenants win, eviction permanently scars rental history, negatively affects credit scores & makes it harder to rent, borrow money, buy a home. Since [the] majority of states don't seal evictions, landlords/public housing authorities will screen/reject ppl w/an eviction filing."

Let that sink in: When families are evicted, children can be named in the legal proceedings. Even if the judge rules in the family's favor, those kids will have an eviction on their record.

How is this fair? Children are too young to sign legal documents, so they don't sign onto their parents' rental agreements. But yet they can be named in the legal proceedings for evictions?

The ramifications could harm these vulnerable children well into adulthood.

"As a result, the families in the greatest need are pushed to the outskirts of the rental market and into substandard housing in communities with higher rates of crime, poverty, and under-resourced schools and less opportunity," wrote Benfer.

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The eviction process overwhelmingly affects people of color and families with children. The single greatest predictor of eviction is the presence of a child, according to this study.

It's a damaging cycle—and one that needs to stop.

Benfer says the case against this particularly familiar has since been dismissed with prejudice for improper notice. But there's still work to be done to get the family members' eviction records sealed.

If you're a renter and you're facing the possibility of eviction, know that the CDC's moratorium on eviction is still in effect. You can find more resources here. Benfer recommends finding a lawyer and rental assistance. If you or someone you know need to find legal forms in a language other than English, you can find them here.

If you want to help families affected by this practice, Benfer recommends contacting your local and federal lawmakers. Tell them that you don't want to see anyone evicted during a pandemic, especially children. Demand rental assistance for these families and a ban on the practice of naming children as defendants in eviction proceedings.

It's just not right.

Jamie Orsini is an Emmy Award-winning journalist, military spouse, and a mom to two busy toddlers. In her spare time, Jamie volunteers with the Solar System Ambassador program with NASA/JPL and reads anything she can get her hands on. She’s currently working on her first novel.

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