Code of the District of Columbia

§ 42–3505.09. Sealing of eviction court records.

(a) The Superior Court of the District of Columbia ("Superior Court") shall seal all court records relating to an eviction proceeding:

(1) If the eviction proceeding does not result in a judgment for possession in favor of the housing provider, 30 days after the final resolution of the eviction proceeding; or

(2) If the eviction proceeding results in a judgement for possession in favor of the housing provider, 3 years after the final resolution of the eviction proceeding.

(b) For court records relating to an eviction proceeding filed before March 11, 2020, the requirements of subsection (a) of this section shall apply as of January 1, 2022.

(c)(1) The Superior Court shall seal court records relating to an eviction proceeding at any time, upon a motion by a tenant, if:

(A) The tenant demonstrates by a preponderance of the evidence that:

(i) The housing provider brought the eviction proceeding because the tenant failed to pay an amount of $600 or less;

(ii) The tenant was evicted from a unit under any federal or District site-based housing subsidy program, or any federal or District tenant-based housing subsidy program;

(iii) The housing provider's initiation of eviction proceedings against the tenant was in violation of:

(I) Section 42-3505.02; or

(II) Section 2-1402.61;

(iv) The housing provider failed to timely abate a violation of 14 DCMR § 100 et seq. or 12G DCMR 100 et seq. in relation to the defendant tenant's rental unit;

(v) The housing provider initiated the eviction proceedings because of an incident that would constitute a defense to an action for possession under § 42-3505.01(c-1) or a federal law pertaining to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking; or

(vi) The parties entered into a settlement agreement that did not result in the housing provider recovering possession of the unit; or

(B) The Superior Court determines that there are other grounds justifying sealing the court records.

(2) An order dismissing, granting, or denying a motion filed under this subsection shall be a final order for purposes of appeal.

(3)(A) A copy of an order issued under this subsection shall be provided to the tenant or his or her counsel.

(B) A tenant may obtain a copy of an order issued under this subsection at any time from the Clerk of the Superior Court, upon presenting proper identification, without a showing of need.

(d) Records sealed under this section shall be opened:

(1) Upon written request of the tenant; or

(2) On order of the Superior Court upon a showing of compelling need.".

(e)(1) The court may release records sealed under this section for scholarly, educational, journalistic, or governmental purposes upon a balancing of the interests of the tenant for nondisclosure against the interests of the requesting party; provided, that personally identifiable information about the tenant, such as the name and address shall only be disclosed after:

(A) Submission of a written request to the court by a researcher;

(B) Approval by the court through the execution of a written data use agreement that describes the research project;

(C) Documented applicable Institutional Review Board approval;

(D) Provision of documented procedures to protect the confidentiality and security of the information; and

(E) Provision of documented procedures for data storage and the data destruction method to be used for the information is provided.

(2)(A) Upon receipt of a request and proof of identity, copies of any record sealed under this section shall be provided to the following persons, without the public unsealing of the records and without a showing of need:

(i) The tenant named in the record;

(ii) The tenant's counsel; or

(iii) An attorney authorized to practice law in the District of Columbia who is considering commencing representation of the tenant; provided, that the person shall:

(I) Certify to the Court's satisfaction that the tenant has requested consideration for representation and has authorized the attorney's access to the sealed records; and

(II) Provide the Court with the person's D.C. bar number or proof of authorization to practice under Rule 49(c) of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals.

(B) A person may request records sealed under this section in person at the Civil Division or by an electronic means designated by the Civil Division.

(C) For purposes of this section, the term "records" shall include any information contained in the docket, including the court docket, pleadings, and orders.

(f) Any agreement pursuant to which personally identifiable information contained in a court record or report is disclosed shall:

(1) Prohibit the re-release of any personally identifiable information without explicit permission from the court;

(2) Require that the information be used solely for research or administrative purposes;

(3) Require that the information be used only for the project described in the application;

(4) Prohibit the use of the information as a basis for legal, administrative, or any other action that directly affects any individual or institution identifiable from the data;

(5) Set forth the payment, if any, to be provided by the researcher to the court for the specified research project; and

(6) Require that ownership of data provided under the agreement shall remain with the court, not the researcher or the research project.

(g) The Superior Court shall not order the redaction of the tenant's name from any published opinion of the trial or appellate courts that refer to a record sealed under this section.

(h)(1) Where a housing provider intentionally bases an adverse action taken against a prospective tenant on an eviction court record that the housing provider knows to be sealed pursuant to this section, the prospective tenant may bring a civil action in the Superior Court within one year after the alleged violation and, upon prevailing, shall be entitled to the following relief:

(A) Reasonable attorneys' fees and costs;

(B) Incidental damages; and

(C) Equitable relief as may be appropriate.

(2) For the purposes of this section, the term "adverse action" means:

(A) Denial of a prospective tenant's rental application; or

(B) Approval of a prospective tenant's rental application, subject to terms or conditions different and less-favorable to the prospective tenant than those included in any written notice, statement, or advertisement for the rental unit, including written communication sent directly from the housing provider to a prospective tenant.