An eviction record is the history of all eviction cases filed against a tenant. The record may include eviction cases that were filed but got dismissed, as well as cases that the tenant won, depending on the state. Both tenants and landlords can look up eviction records.
Table of Contents:
- Why Eviction Records Matter – They’re used by landlords (for better or worse) to screen potential tenants.
- How to Look Them Up – There are several ways to look up eviction records, but not all of them are free.
- How to Expunge Them – It may be possible for tenants to have evictions removed from their eviction records.
- Evictions and Credit Reports – Contrary to popular belief, an eviction does not appear on a credit report, but something else related to an eviction does.
Why Does an Eviction Record Matter?
Many landlords rely on eviction record reports as part of their tenant screening process—but should they? Tenants need to know what’s showing up on their eviction records, too, to ensure that the information is accurate and to see what information landlords are basing rental decisions on.
A Screening Tool for Landlords
Landlords often use an eviction records report as a screening tool to weed out undesirable applicants. Very few landlords are willing to rent to a tenant who has been evicted, even if it only happened once, and the eviction record will include all eviction cases filed against a tenant.
The record may be limited, however, in the type of information it provides. Landlords need to understand that just because an eviction case has been previously filed against the tenant, it doesn’t mean that the tenant was actually evicted.
- The case could have been dismissed because the landlord didn’t pursue it, didn’t serve the appropriate documents on the tenant in the appropriate way, or was settled out of court.
- A judge could have ruled in the tenant’s favor, letting them remain in the rental unit.
- The landlord and tenant could have worked something out at an initial hearing before reaching the eviction hearing, meaning the tenant never got evicted.
This type of information may not be included on the eviction records report.
Another caveat for landlords is that the eviction record could be for a different tenant with a similar name.
Note that tenants who received cash for keys will not have an eviction record since they were paid by the prior landlord to leave the rental property in order to avoid going through the eviction process.
Depending on the state, squatters who’ve been removed from rental property may not have an eviction record, either.
- New York. Landlords should be aware that they’re not allowed to refuse to rent to a tenant just because an eviction case was filed against them; in addition, courts are not allowed to sell eviction information to third parties, like tenant screening companies.
- Washington state. In Washington, tenants can petition the court to prevent tenant screening companies from including their eviction cases on a rental history/eviction records report.
Landlords should be sure they understand what information is included on an eviction records report and that it’s for the correct tenant before rejecting an applicant because an eviction case shows up on their record.
Ensuring the Information Is Accurate (Tenants)
Tenants will want to access their own eviction record to ensure that the information contained in the record is accurate. There may be other renters out there with similar names who get lumped into the same eviction report but are unrelated to each other.
Or, as noted above, the tenant may not have actually been evicted from the rental unit in spite of the fact that the landlord filed an eviction case with the court.
If the tenant is aware of what information will be on the report, they can discuss any issues with the prospective landlord ahead of time and clear up any confusion or misconceptions about why an eviction case has shown up on the tenant’s rental history or eviction records report.
Keep in mind that just because a tenant has had an eviction case filed against them, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a bad tenant.
Wise landlords will ask potential tenants about any eviction cases that show up in an eviction record report instead of automatically excluding them from consideration.
Remember, there are landlords out there who do discriminate against tenants and file unfair eviction actions in an attempt to remove them; or who use an eviction filing as a way to get back at tenants who report the landlord for failing to provide safe, livable housing or make needed repairs to the rental unit.
And, because evictions disproportionately affect African Americans, rejecting an application simply because an eviction case appears on an eviction records report could be seen as discriminatory if the rejected applicant is African American.
If a prospective tenant does have an eviction record, landlords need to do their due diligence and determine whether the tenant was actually evicted or if the case was dismissed, settled, or granted in the tenant’s favor.
If the tenant was evicted previously, landlords should also get to the heart of why the eviction happened in order to make an informed decision about the applicant.
Looking Up Eviction Records
There are a few ways you can look up an eviction record, either as the tenant or the landlord. (The process is the same no matter who requests the information.)
What To Look For
A rental history isn’t much good if it’s for the wrong person, or if it contains incorrect or incomplete information.
The tenant could have a nickname, maiden name, or alias they’ve used to rent property in the past, so landlords should be sure to ask for any names the tenant has used previously.
Landlords should also request the tenant’s birthdate and all previous rental addresses.
This will ensure that the record being reviewed actually belongs to the prospective tenant. It’s critical to ensure that the data is for the right tenant and that the landlord understands why an eviction case appears on the tenant’s eviction record.
For tenants, this is just as important—as a tenant, you’ll want to make sure that any records associated with your name are really for you and not someone else, and that the information contained in the eviction record is accurate.
Ask the Tenant/Prior Landlord
This one almost seems too easy, but landlords sometimes forget the obvious when screening tenants.
The simplest way to find out if a tenant has been evicted is to ask the tenant—on a rental application or as part of the interview process. If the tenant says yes, then potential landlords should ask follow-up questions to understand why the tenant was evicted.
The tenant could have been evicted through no fault of their own—discrimination by the prior landlord, retaliation by the former landlord, or through the actions of a former roommate.
Confirm this information by contacting the prior landlord(s) and ask about their experiences with the tenant, even if the tenant says they’ve never been evicted.
Online Court Case Search
Another way to find out about a tenant’s eviction record is to go to your state’s court website or the website for the court located in the same city or county as the rental unit.
Because evictions are considered part of the public record in most states, the general public is allowed to have access to eviction cases.
Several states will allow you to look up case information online for free, such as Missouri, but you’ll need to know at least one of the following pieces of information:
- Name of tenant
- Name of landlord/property management company
- The case number
Typically, the tenant is the defendant in the case and the landlord is the plaintiff. Enter the information you have into the appropriate search fields.
Some states provide very little case information online, while others include the date the eviction order was issued, whether the tenant was ordered to pay any money to the landlord (such as past-due rent), the amount ordered, and whether the debt has been paid off.
In-Person Court Case Search
You can also go into the courthouse in person and ask to view or copy the case file, though most states do charge a fee for these services.
This is the best way to view the entire case file and see every document filed by the landlord and the tenant, as well as every order issued by the court, since most states won’t display this level of detail in their online case search programs.
Again, you’ll need to know the name of at least one of the parties involved in the case or the case number.
There are many companies out there that will run an eviction records report for you. These companies are simply reviewing court records and then passing the information along to you, and will always charge a fee for their services.
Tenants, however, are allowed to request their own rental history or eviction record report once a year for free.
One benefit to using a third-party company is that they’ll be able to access court records from other states, so even if the tenant has no eviction record in the current state, a third-party report can show evictions for any state the tenant has lived in.
It’s also a much faster way to research multiple tenants.
A few of the national companies providing this service include:
- Experian (as RentBureau)
If the eviction case is removed from the court record (as outlined below), then the eviction records report will come up clean, with no evictions listed.
Expunging an Eviction from the Court Record
A few states allow tenants to expunge (or remove) an eviction case from the public record.
In those states, the former tenant is typically required to file a formal petition with the court to have the eviction case sealed, expunged, or suppressed (depending on the state).
In some states, however, tenants are only allowed to expunge the case if there are no outstanding money judgments, meaning that the tenant has paid in full any past-due rent, damages, or other fees, fines, and costs they were ordered to pay at the eviction hearing.
Other states will only allow the case to be sealed if it was dismissed, settled prior to the hearing, or if the court ruled in favor of the tenant.
If the expungement is granted, the eviction case will no longer appear on a rental history report or as part of the tenant’s eviction record. Any unpaid judgment amounts will still show up on a credit report, however.
The following states allow tenants to seal their eviction cases, preventing them from being accessible to the public (and tenant screening companies):
- Texas(only applies to nonpayment of rent evictions due to COVID-19 issues)
In Wisconsin, if the eviction case was dismissed, it will be automatically removed from public records after 2 years, meaning it will no longer appear on a rental history/eviction records report.
Several other states allow portions of civil cases to be sealed, but it’s unclear whether these laws would also apply to eviction cases.
Be sure to check the laws in your state to find out if it’s possible to have an eviction case removed from public access, and what types of eviction cases are eligible for expungement.
You may be wondering how an eviction will affect credit scores—read on to find out!
Evictions and Credit Reports
There seems to be quite a bit of confusion out there about whether a tenant’s eviction history shows up on a credit report.
To set the record straight, a credit report does not include a tenant’s eviction record.
However, the credit report will show unpaid money judgments against the tenant, which could include:
- Any unpaid past-due rent the tenant was ordered to pay at an eviction hearing
- Any unpaid damages the tenant was ordered to pay at an eviction hearing
- Any unpaid fines, fees, or court costs the tenant was ordered to pay at the eviction hearing
These debts will stay on a credit report for 7 years if not paid off in full before then, just the same as any other debt the tenant may owe, like delinquent credit card balances, and the unpaid rental debts may negatively affect a tenant’s credit score.
Any debt that gets paid in full will be removed from the credit report, so as soon as the debt owed to the landlord (or the court) is paid in full, the debt amount will no longer appear on a tenant’s credit report.
Remember, the fact that a tenant was evicted is not what appears on a credit report—unpaid money owed to the landlord or to the courts because of an eviction action is what will appear on the credit report.
If a tenant was evicted and was not ordered to pay anything to the landlord or the court, then nothing related to the eviction will appear on a credit report.