Having an eviction on your record seriously damages your creditworthiness and ability to rent in the future, so getting rid of an eviction is an important step. You have a reasonable chance of clearing the eviction by reopening the case and showing legal issues with the eviction process, but if you were legitimately at fault, your options are fewer and the result is more doubtful. It's usually worth making the attempt, whatever the circumstances, because an eviction weighs so heavily on your record.
The Ounce of Prevention
If you went into your eviction hearing unprepared, and the judge ruled in favor of the landlord, you still have time – 60 days in many states – to act before it appears on the public record. Finding a new place to live before the eviction becomes public is the main reason for that grace period, but you can also use it as an opportunity to keep the eviction from showing up at all. Get a copy of your state's regulations governing landlord-tenant interactions, and check to be sure your landlord diligently followed the due process of law throughout the eviction.
If you can show that the landlord cut corners or had a shaky case, that you had fulfilled the terms of your lease or that the landlord acted out of retaliation, you might be able to have the judgment overturned. Depending on your state, a tenant advocacy group or your state's legal aid society might be able to help.
Getting an Expungement
If the eviction was granted more than 60 days ago, you may still be able to have it removed or "expunged" from the record. It's easiest if you can show that the landlord's eviction process was flawed in some way, or if you can demonstrate that you were in the right but didn't manage to defend yourself properly at the original hearing. If you go that route, you'll have to petition the court to have the case reopened. The forms are usually available online, or you can request them at your county court.
If your eviction was legal and valid, you have fewer options. If you can show that the eviction was unjust in some way – if your name remained on the lease but you'd already moved out, for example, or if you were the victim of domestic violence – the courts in some states may find in your favor and allow the expungement.
Dealing Directly With the Landlord
If there is an honest difference of opinion between you and your landlord, and both of you are dealing in good faith, you may be able to arrive directly at a settlement. Some states will provide a mediator to help you work out an arrangement that's fair to both sides. Once you've fulfilled the agreed-upon terms, some states allow you to apply, with the landlord's written consent, for expungement. It's important to document everything from start to finish: the original written agreement, receipts for your payments or some other documentation to show you've met its conditions and ultimately the landlord's written statement that you've completed the terms of the agreement. You'll need this documentation to go on and clear your record.
Clearing Your Record Afterward
You'll have two records you'll need to clear afterward: your credit report and the public court records. If your eviction was wrongful, you can dispute it directly with each of the three main reporting agencies: Equifax, Transunion and Experian. You can have a brief explanation attached to the incident while you're seeking redress. These agencies all have an online credit item dispute process.
After receiving a favorable court ruling, you should follow up to have it removed from the record completely. If you've successfully completed a settlement with your landlord, you can apply to have the eviction removed, but you're less certain of success. As for the public court records, a judgment in your favor removes those records from the court system. You can have a judgment in the landlord's favor sealed, or made nonpublic, in rare cases, usually involving circumstances such as domestic violence where the potential harm to you outweighs the public's right to know.
- Experian: Delete Evictions, Judgments, and Bankruptcy From Credit Report
- Mass Legal Help: Fighting an Eviction in Court
- Battered Women's Justice Project:HUD Announces New Protections for Victims
- LawHelpMN: Education for Justice: Expunging an Eviction Case
- Higbee & Associates, RecordGone: Keeping Old Law Suits From Haunting Your Future – Part 2, Unlawful Detainer (Eviction) Law Suits
- Higbee & Associates, RecordGone: Keeping Old Law Suits From Haunting Your Future – Part 3, Laws Governing What the Credit Agency Can Report
- Tenant Resource Center for Housing Justice in Wisconsin: CCAP: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
- My Attorney Home: Can Wrongfully Filed Evictions Be Expunged From Public Records
- Superior Court of California, County of San Joaquin: Unlawful Detainer/Landlord-Tenant
- Pine Tree Legal Assistance: Abused Women: Your Fair Housing Rights
Fred Decker is a trained chef and prolific freelance writer. He was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology. His articles on law, especially as it relates to business and entrepreneurship, can also be seen on Bizfluent, AZCentral, Chron.com and the professional B2B portal at Vitamix.com.