TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y. — Assemblymember Barbara Lifton introduced legislation aimed at bringing transparency to the evictions process statewide by making details on proceedings publicly available in a state-maintained database.

“Tens of thousands of evictions occur every year in our state, but there is no easy, centralized way to access those records, and information is often scant at the municipal level, at any rate,” Lifton said in a release Thursday. “Understanding trends in eviction rates — where, why, and when evictions are happening — may help us prevent some evictions by shedding useful light on this important issue and, ultimately, I hope, keep more people in their homes and businesses.”

The legislation would require the database to collect the court index number, the docket number and date of an eviction filing as well as whether the tenant had legal representation during the proceeding. It would also include:

  • Whether an eviction has been ordered and on what date it was ordered.
  • The reason for the eviction.
  • The nonpayment amount owed by the tenant, if any.
  • The name and address of the landlord.
  • Whether the property is commercial or residential.
  • The zip code of the property.

If this bill becomes law, the Office of the NYS Inspector General, within the NYS Department of State, would establish and maintain the database on online for public access, using records from local courts.

The Robin Fund is a charitable organization administered by the Greater Ithaca Activities Center offering emergency assistance to local families faced with a financial crisis. Carl Feuer, a founder and board member of the organization, praised Lifton’s proposed legislation.

“I’m very pleased to see Assemblywoman Lifton introducing this important bill that will result in publicly-available data on rental housing and the reasons for, and circumstances around, eviction proceedings. As I tried to do research on evictions in Tompkins County over the past couple of years in order to better understand what was happening to renters, I found there was often a dearth of useful information, and it varied considerably from municipality to municipality,” said Feuer. “This bill, should it become law, will allow for a much clearer picture of evictions, where and why they’re happening, and, I hope, enable advocates to bring appropriate remedies to bear on the problem and help prevent many more evictions, which are so disruptive of people’s lives.”