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Why eviction notices hurt black women especially in King County

A few years ago, Nikita Smith was named in an eviction case by her landlord.

They ended up resolving the issue and she was never evicted.

But being named in the case was enough to disqualify her when she applied for a home in Renton in 2015.

Now, Smith has filed a lawsuit targeting the landlord screening policy that stood in her way.

The lawsuit - brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Northwest Justice Project, and Virginia Poverty Law Center - states that blanket policies disqualifying applicants who have been named in an eviction case are discriminatory.

Sandra Park, senior attorney with the ACLU Women’s Rights project, said these kinds of blanket screening policies are widespread.

She understands that the policies are convenient for landlords, but they also violate civil rights, according to Park.

“Basically what should be happening, in order to avoid the discriminatory effect, is for landlords to look at the individual circumstances of an applicant's situation, including why a prior eviction might have been filed against them."

Park said these screening policies also disproportionately affect African-American women, like Nikita Smith.

“We looked at this in King County, Washington and we found that African-American women were more than four times as likely to have an eviction filed against them compared to households headed by white men."

Park said this is partly due to the fact that African-American men are over-represented in the prison population. That often leaves African-American women to bear the burden of maintaining households.

She said race and gender discrimination could also come into the equation.

Park said blanket disqualification of people named in an eviction case violates the Fair Housing Act.

Wasatch Property Management, the group named in the lawsuit, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Year started with KUOW: 2015