Going through an eviction can be the nadir of financial problems. Losing a job, unpaid medical bills and being hounded by bill collectors can be major life events accompanying an eviction.
Being evicted from your home or apartment may be the final financial straw that sends your credit into a downward spiral, affecting your ability to rent in the future, find a job, qualify for loans and other get on with your life.
While an eviction won’t directly show up on a credit report, information related to it will.
Why be evicted?
An eviction notice is usually the last of many notices given to tenants who either haven’t paid their rent or have done something that violates their rental contract. You could have a pet that isn’t allowed under the lease terms, for example, or you may not be keeping the property up to standards set in the contract.
With those eviction reasons, a tenant can often settle things by paying rent or fixing the problem within a week or so of being notified of the transgression.
Eviction laws vary by state, and some allow landlords to kick people out without any specific cause, as long as it’s not discriminatory and the lease is monthly.
Most states require landlords to give a tenant notice to fix the issue, such as by paying rent, before the legal eviction process can begin. Paying the money due and moving out, if still required, can avoid the court eviction process.
For a landlord to legally evict someone, they must sue the tenant in court for not paying. A summons and complaint will then be delivered by a local law enforcement official, telling the tenant when and where to arrive for a court hearing, what the landlord is suing for, and may include a date to leave the property.
If evicted, the defendant may held liable for back rent and court fees. That’s when the eviction can start to affect their credit score. Even if the tenant moved out of the property on their own, a court can still require them to pay past rent that’s due.
Eviction’s effect on credit
If a landlord wins an eviction lawsuit against you, the eviction won’t be reported to the three credit bureaus. But the unpaid bill will likely be reported if your landlord sends it to a collection agency that will try to get the money from you, or if the landlord wins a small claims suit for payment.
It will treated just like any other delinquent debt on your credit report and will remain there for seven years, even if you eventually pay it off.
The results of a eviction can also appear on a credit report through public records that creditors check to see if you’re a good risk for a loan. If the eviction resulted in a civic judgment against you for unpaid rent and court fees, the amount would appear in legal records available in public records.
Civic judgments will be placed in the public records section of a credit report, though anyone reviewing the credit report won’t see that it’s an eviction. Instead, what they’ll see is a judgement for a property management company, leaving them to assume it’s for an eviction.
If you don’t want to wait seven years or for the statute of limitations on unpaid judgments to expire, you can lessen the effects of an eviction on a credit report by paying off the judgment. Paying it won’t remove the record from your credit report, but it may help your chances of being approved for another rental in the future.
While future potential landlords won’t see an eviction listed on a credit report, they will likely get a rental history report from a tenant screening company that will show the eviction information, according to Experian, a credit reporting agency.
Unpaid bills that go to collections or result in a court judgment against you and end up on your credit report can hurt in other ways. You may be denied loans, such as for a home or car, or at the least will pay higher interest rates and have other prohibitive terms when applying for credit.
Employers also often check applicants’ credit reports — which require an applicant’s written permission — and a low credit score could be a reason for not hiring someone.
Credit card companies also check credit reports. Rent and other unpaid bills that have gone into collections will lower a credit score, making it harder to get a credit card. If you do get one, it will likely have high interest rates.
Avoid eviction at all costs
If a landlord tells you that you’re late paying rent, pay it as soon as you can to avoid being evicted. If it escalates to a civil judgment against you and you’re evicted, expect to affect many other areas of your life sooner or later, and for as long as seven years.
Try to work out a payment plan with your landlord, and tell them about your recent job loss or other factors leading to your inability to pay. They may be willing to work with you instead of going through the costly and time-consuming legal process of eviction.
The same goes for dealing with a creditor seeking back rent from you after a landlord has turned it over to a collection agency. Ask for written documentation after you’ve paid the bill so you can show future landlords that you’ve paid your debt.
At the very least, it’s a start to showing creditors that you’re serious about paying your bills.