The California Apartment Association is opposing a bill that would conceal all eviction records from public view, even when the cases involve more than $35,000 in unpaid rent.

AB 2304 by Assemblyman Alex Lee, D-San Jose, aims to expand existing protections that mask eviction filings to help tenants avoid negative credit reports. While current law applies only to “limited” civil cases with claims under $35,000, AB 2304 would extend masking provisions to all eviction cases.

Assemblyman Alex Lee

The original intent of the “masking” law was to protect landlords and tenants from predatory attorneys who encouraged renters to file bankruptcy to avoid paying past-due rent. Although the law has evolved to safeguard tenants’ credit, CAA contends it was never meant to shield those owing tens of thousands in unpaid rent.

“While ‘unlimited cases’ (meaning those above $35,000) are rare and reserved for the worst offenders, there is no good reason to burden the courts with more masking procedures for cases that involve tenants who have run up a huge amount of unpaid rent,” CAA says in a letter opposing AB 2304.

The association said these cases typically involve “predatory system-gaming” lawyers who help tenants avoid eviction and skirt past-due rent. Concealing such cases could enable problem tenants to hide their history from future landlords who deserve to know about significant financial delinquencies before leasing to a tenant. CAA believes AB 2304 unfairly obscures critical information and potentially exposes rental housing providers to undue risk.