Minor Defendants: Kids Are Being Named in Evictions

Absurd as it may sound, minor children are sometimes named in eviction filings. If a child’s name makes in onto official court records—especially if those records are public and online—the damage can be irreversible.

2 minute read

November 17, 2021, 10:00 AM PST

By LM_Ortiz

Weathered stone slabs with the words Juvenile Court Entrance engraved into it.

Richard Oldroyd / Shutterstock

*Linda’s children were too young to write their own names when they were entered as defendants into a New York state housing court computer. Both kids, now 3 and 7, are identified as legal parties in a pending eviction case against their mother.

Absurd as that may sound, it’s not a fluke. Minor children are sometimes named in eviction filings. When it happens, the damage is acute and difficult to repair even if it’s caught quickly. If a child’s name makes in onto official court records, especially if those records are public and online, the damage can be irreversible.

Almost a year ago, Linda’s landlord banged on her apartment door and quizzed her then-6-year-old, asking the child to spell both kids’ names. The landlord showed up unannounced while Linda was in the bathroom, and her older child opened the door before Linda could intervene.

“I was so upset and disturbed and angry,” she says. “This is an adult situation, why are the children involved? When I spoke with the landlord, he said his lawyer told him that to evict everyone from the premises, everyone’s name should be listed on the eviction notice.”

Attorneys familiar with the issue say kids are sometimes named in evictions to intentionally harass or intimidate tenants, though usually the landlords (or their attorneys) misunderstand the laws and/or have little regard for the long-term consequences evictions inflict on children and families.

In New York, children are being named in eviction fillings more often recently as an unintended consequence of the state’s Housing Security and Tenant Protection Act of 2019. A provision in the law uses language that can be misinterpreted to mean ...

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