If you've ever been evicted, looking for a new place to live can be intimidating. You may wonder how to get an eviction off your record, or whether it's even possible to have an eviction expunged.
The good news is that while renting after an eviction is challenging, it's not impossible. When you need a place to live but you have an eviction on your record, knowing where you stand and what information appears on your rental history can help you correct inaccuracies or even remove the eviction altogether.
How to find out if you have an eviction on record
Eviction is a legal process a property manager can use to remove a tenant. The process creates a public record of the eviction. There are two places you can check to find if you have an eviction on your record: a tenant screening report and your credit report.
There are a variety of reasons people get evicted, but no matter why you were evicted, the record of your eviction will appear on tenant screening reports and background checks. You can request a copy of your report from a tenant screening agency. If you're apartment hunting, ask the property manager what screening agency they use and start there.
Your credit report is different from a tenant screening report. Credit bureaus collect information on your debts and payment history. So let's bust a common myth: the public record of your eviction won't appear on your credit report. But if you were evicted for non-payment of rent or fees and you have outstanding debt, the property manager may turn your debt over to a collection agency. Collections activity will show up on your credit report within 30 to 60 days. You can request a free credit report from all three nationwide credit reporting agencies once every 12 months, so be sure to check yours regularly to keep track of your credit activity.
If you've been rejected for a rental due to an adverse action on your credit report or renter screening report, the Fair Credit Reporting Act requires the property manager to let you know what negative action appeared on your report and provide the contact information for the reporting agency. If you've been turned down because of something that appeared on a company's report, whether it's a credit bureau or a tenant screening agency, you're legally entitled to a free report from them.
How to get an eviction off your record
Getting an eviction off your record isn't an easy feat. But getting your record cleared will open more doors — literally!
1. If you believe you were wrongfully evicted, take it to court
Eviction laws vary by state, so check with the agency that governs renter's rights in your state by searching "landlord tenant laws." Let's say your property manager didn't follow proper eviction procedures, or you can prove that you didn't violate the terms of your lease agreement. You may be able to petition the court to remove the eviction from your public record. The legal aid organization in your area may be able to help with your case if your income is below a certain threshold.
2. Pay (or settle) your rental debts
If you have legitimate outstanding balances related to your eviction, pay them. If you're unable to pay the entire amount, try negotiating with the property manager or collection agency. They may be willing to settle the debt for less than the amount owed or work with you to set up a payment plan.
3. Ask to have collections removed from your credit report
Even after you've paid or settled a debt, the collection activity may remain on your credit report. When you make payment in full or negotiate a settlement, ask the collection agency or property manager to request removal of the collection from your credit report. Be sure to get this agreement in writing. If the collection isn't removed, the documentation will be helpful in filing a dispute with the credit bureau.
4. Ask to have the eviction removed from tenant-screening reports
You can also ask the property manager to request that your eviction record be removed from tenant screening reports as a condition of your payment in full or settlement. Get this agreement in writing, too.
5. Make sure negative actions have been removed
After you've completed the steps to remove an eviction from your record, verify that the items related to the eviction have been removed from your credit report and tenant screening report. If you find inaccuracies, move on to step six.
6. Dispute errors with the credit bureaus and tenant-screening agencies
If you believe there are inaccuracies related to eviction on your credit report, look into the procedure for filing a dispute with the credit bureau. You can also contact tenant-screening companies directly to dispute errors. Be prepared to show proof that the report is inaccurate. That includes any written documents you asked for when you paid your rental debt or agreed on a settlement.
How long do evictions stay on your record?
Evictions and judgments can stay on your public record for seven years or more. Although these public records are no longer included in credit reports, they do show up in background checks and tenant screening reports.
How many points does an eviction drop your credit score?
Evictions alone do not drop your credit score, but collections related to your eviction do. The number of points your score drops depends on various factors that are unique to you and your credit history. Someone with a good credit history may see their score plummet by 50 points or more if they get evicted, but the resulting impact may not be as dramatic for a person who already has a low credit score.
Although collections mean serious negative repercussions for your credit score, the older the information, the lower the impact. Collections carry the most weight for the first two years after they've been added to your report.
How to rent with an eviction on your record
Renting after you've been evicted can pose some real challenges. Almost all property managers rely on screening to decide whether a potential renter is a good risk, and a prior eviction raises a red flag. If you weren't able to clear an eviction from your record, these tips can make renting after an eviction easier.
- Stay up-to-date on your credit score and work to improve it. Even if an eviction appears on your tenant screening report, having a credit report that shows a positive payment trajectory can help soften the blow.
- Prepare to explain the eviction and be truthful. Knowing an eviction is part of your public rental history can help you prepare to explain your side of the story openly and honestly. Share any steps you've taken to make sure you'll keep your rental history clear in the future.
- Gather references. Although eviction is a serious blip on your record, it can be helpful to have people who will vouch for you and your ability to meet your obligations. Offer more references than the property manager asks for.=
- Create a renter resume. Outline your background, employment history, income and references to give the property manager a picture of who you are and why you'd be an ideal tenant.
- Consider renting from a private party. Apartment complexes and rental agencies have certain guidelines and restrictions that often prevent them from renting to someone with a past eviction. Individual property owners may be more flexible. (Pro tip: You can filter your Rent.com search to look for houses, which are more likely to be privately owned.)
- Work with an apartment locator or rental realtor. Professionals who help potential tenants find apartments are better prepared to help you navigate a challenging rental landscape.
- Offer to pay a higher deposit. If you're financially able, offer to pay an extra two or three month's rent up-front. This shows the property manager you're serious about making your payments.
- Get a co-signer. Having someone with a good credit history co-sign for you could make a rental more obtainable. But keep in mind that if you're unable to pay your rent at any point, your co-signer will have to.
Avoid eviction if you're able
Do your best to avoid eviction in the first place by being proactive and working with your property manager. But if you've already faced that stressful situation, knowing how to get an eviction off your record can empower you. It will take some effort, but in the end, you'll be ready to find the perfect place to live.