CLARKSVILLE, TN (CLARKSVILLE NOW) – A new Tennessee law that started in Clarksville offers new privacy protections for residential property owners.
Through the Unlisted Bill (HB2597 / SB2695), a property owner can request that their county property assessor label them as “unlisted” in online searchable databases. The bill was signed into law by Gov. Bill Lee on May 9 and will go into effect Jan. 1, 2023.
Rep. Jason Hodges, D-Clarksville, who sponsored the bill in the House, told Clarksville Now that Montgomery County Property Assessor Erinne Hester was instrumental in creating the privacy bill.
Hester told Clarksville Now working with Hodges on the Unlisted Bill has been a career highlight for her.
“I’m proud of it. It’ll create a lot of work for us, but it’s the right thing to do, ”Hester said.
‘A step in the right direction’
Hester said the bill balances transparency with the right to privacy by allowing owner name suppression in the property search database, which is not a matter of public record.
“The right to privacy is fundamental, and in Montgomery County our citizens expect their government leaders to value and protect their rights. At the same time, the government must be transparent and keep records open, ”Hester told Clarksville Now. “I was really pleased to work with Representative Hodges on this legislation because it strikes the right balance. It allows for privacy from internet snooping on primary residences and maintains the integrity of open records and transparency. This is a step in the right direction for sure. ”
She added that the bill could be particularly useful for survivors of abuse as well as law enforcement officers and other public servants whose work can sometimes make them a target for public ire.
Montgomery County Sheriff John Fuson praised the change.
“Anybody that does public service work interacts with members of the community, and sometimes those situations are great experiences for them and the citizen. Sometimes, they’re not that great, ”Fuson told Clarksville Now.
“This protects those folks from what protected records should’ve done long ago. All the men and women that work for me, that do what they do and interact with folk that could be a threat to them, their address is easily accessible online. It’s almost like we’re making it easy for people to use that information in a potentially tragic way. ”
Hester told Clarksville Now that while the Unlisted Bill doesn’t go into effect until 2023, she and her office are working hard to implement it in Montgomery County well before then, but that “it’s not going to be next week or even next month.”