The best way to deal with an eviction is to fight it before you are forced to leave your home.
But not everyone who fights will win. And after you’ve been evicted, the nightmare isn’t over. An eviction on your file can cause future hardship, especially as you are trying to get back on your feet.
Even in these difficult circumstances, there are some steps you can take to mitigate the harm of an eviction.
Is there a permanent record of my eviction?
Yes, there will be a permanent record of your eviction. If your case went to court, it will appear on the civil court files.
More importantly, your eviction is likely to show up if your prospective landlord requests a rental history report on you from tenant verification services or credit bureaus. It likely contains three components:
- Rental history report
- Credit report or credit history
- Checking the criminal background
The rental history report itself contains information about where you live, including any evictions. Typically, information from this report will fall off after seven years.
As for your credit report, it technically doesn’t show an eviction there. However, if your landlord reported a late rental to the credit bureaus, this will show up. Your landlord could also report any monies imposed by a judge on you under civil proceedings related to your eviction.
Consequences of an eviction
Attorney Patience Kaysee-Saydee of the Kaysee Legal Group says any landlord may have access to your rental history as part of the application process. If the landlord is a large property management company, they are particularly likely to be checked.
“But it’s not impossible to rent if you have a negative item in your rental history,” says Kaysee-Saydee.
Some landlords allow you to explain your evacuation situation. If they’re willing to pay a bigger security deposit, they might still be willing to lease you.
It’s not that easy, especially when you owe rent back. Many people who have been evicted move in with their families for a while to help organize their finances. This gives you time to save on that initial deposit.
How to move forward with an eviction on your file
In this transition period, too, you should do a few more things.
Yes, you are staying with friends or family to save money. But paying a small rent to your host can also help you get a foot in the door of future landlords.
Kaysee-Saydee says it’s important to keep a record of both your informal lease and the payments you make to your friend or family member. This paperwork can be used to demonstrate your responsibility to potential landlords below.
Work on your credit
Negative line items will drop out of your credit report within seven years. But you don’t necessarily have to wait that long.
If you are able, try to make financial reparations with the landlord who evicted you. Once you’ve started fulfilling your agreement, you can write a goodwill letter. This letter requests that you remove late rentals or other items that your landlord has reported to credit reporting agencies.
You can try the same process for your rental history report.
The landlord is not obliged to grant your application. But it’s worth a try.
Even though your credit report and rental history cannot be instantly repaired, there is a different purpose to making things right with your former landlord. If you get along well, you can ask them for a reference letter.
This letter of recommendation can indicate that even though you have run into financial trouble, you are either making things right or you are in the process of providing relief. The fact that the person who evicted you is vouching for your character can go a long way.
Get yourself a job
If you have an eviction on file, your landlord is particularly likely to ask for proof that you are making enough money to cover your rent.
Kaysee-Saydee says most landlords want to see at least three months of pay slips. Build in a buffer for these three months when you discuss the housing situation with your interim host.
If you are struggling to find a job during the pandemic, you should check out our home work opportunities and consider a bridge job to make some cash.
Identify a co-signer
Kaysee-Saydee advises that some landlords may require a co-signer after finding an eviction on your file. A co-signer can in some cases also help you avoid heightened security deposits.
“The ideal co-signer could be your partner, spouse, parent, or another friend or family member,” says Kaysee-Saydee. “You have to have a clean balance sheet and be able to prove your income.”
Your co-signer takes financial responsibility if you don’t have the rent. It is a great responsibility and not everyone you ask will be willing or able to take it.
Coming out on the other side of an eviction
Losing your own four walls is a traumatic experience. As you go through it, you may feel like you are walking through a fog despite being asked to make decisions that will affect your future housing options.
You can speed up the recovery process by being proactive both before and after the eviction. Lawyer up. Find a friend or family member who can offer you accommodation for a while. While you are there, actively take steps to improve your financial situation.
This is still going to be a difficult time in your life, no doubt. But taking active steps to improve what you can makes a comeback much more likely.
Pittsburgh-based author Brynne Conroy is the founder of the Femme Frugality blog and author of The Feminist Financial Handbook. She writes regularly for The Penny Hoarder.