COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Valerie Hall lived in her East Columbus apartment for nearly 15 years before new management took over in late 2021 and told her to leave.

“They wanted myself and another tenant to move out in 45 days,” Hall said. “They told us that they were going to change it into a B&B.”

Hall said she packed up and moved out within those 45 days, but still got a notice to appear in court, saying she was being evicted. Hall appeared in Franklin County Municipal Court, and as she was leaving, spoke with a representative from the court’s Self Help Center.

“They had, like, a pop-up shop for people coming out of the courtroom, who’s being evicted,” Hall said.

That pop-up shop, Hall said, was for people who wanted to have their evictions sealed or removed from their records.

“I was under the understanding that this would not be seen any time that I applied for any apartment or anything,” Hall said.

But according to Hall, that wasn’t the case. When she applied for an apartment, she was denied, and said the management company told her it was because she had an eviction on her record.

That’s when Hall called Better Call 4.

“We were founded in 2016, kind of as a solution to Ohio’s access to justice problem,” said Robby Southers, managing attorney for the Municipal Court Self Help Center. “Most of what we do is housing and evictions work.”

Southers said there are eviction prevention coordinators in place outside of eviction court.

“That way, the second they walk out of court, they get the help they need,” Southers said.

That includes record sealings, which Southers said can be complicated.

“The challenge is, there’s no state law that allows for actual sealing,” Southers said. “So, if you think about a criminal record sealing or expungement, there’s a state law that tells us exactly what can be sealed and what can’t. If that’s sealed, then it’s an order from the judge telling third parties that they have to remove those records as well. With eviction removal, there is no state law. So, the court doesn’t have as much authority.”

In layman’s terms, sealing an eviction through the Self Help Center means it will not be seen in court records, but if a third-party, rental background check company already has an eviction posted, there’s nothing requiring them to remove it from their records. That, Southers said, is likely what happened in Hall’s case.

Better Call 4 asked Southers if anything can be done for Hall or anyone else who’s been evicted.

“Occasionally, those companies will remove that (eviction) from their records, if you dispute it with them,” Southers said. “We know it’s not a perfect solution, but we want to do the best we can, given what laws we have to work with.”

Southers said the Self Help Center makes people aware of the issues around record sealing, but understands that it is an emotional time, and a lot of information is involved. He also said the court is not able to advocate for law change. So, it is up to lawmakers to get something on the books.