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Try to protect your file
The Clatsop County Courthouse in Astoria, Oregon.
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Past evictions can make it difficult for people to find new housing, said Ariel Nelson, an attorney at the National Consumer Law Center.
“Some landlords automatically deny requests based on eviction records, regardless of the outcome or background,” Nelson said.
For starters, there are usually two places where the old eviction might show up on your record, said Marie Claire Tran-Leung, senior attorney at the National Housing Law Project.
It may be part of the public records of the courthouse where the eviction was filed, and it may appear on a tenant screening report compiled by a third-party company that serves landlords.
Depending on where you live, you may be able to have the public record of your deportation sealed, Tran-Leung said.
For example, in Oregon, tenants can ask the court to expunge eviction records when the tenant prevailed or when the case ended more than five years ago. Illinois passed a law last year to seal many evictions if they took place before or during the public health crisis.
Other states may follow suit: The American Bar Association recommended this month that more courts seal eviction records when the case is still pending or has been dismissed.
Find out, perhaps with your local legal aid office, if your state or county has such laws. If not, it’s still worth asking the court if they would expunge or seal your record, lawyers say.
Some judges will do this on a case-by-case basis.
When it comes to the Tenant Selection Report, there are instances where you can try to contest the mark against you, Nelson said.
“If the eviction record has been sealed but still appears on a tenant screening report, the person should dispute the information,” Nelson said. “In addition, the Fair Credit Reporting Act prohibits the release of eviction records that are more than seven years old.”
Communicate with future owners
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If a potential landlord has rejected your rental application based on information in a tenant screening report, they are required to notify you of this “adverse action,” according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
You then have the right to request a free copy of the report from the tenant verification company used by the landlord. The owner who refused you is obliged to give you the name, address and telephone number of the controlling company.
Meanwhile, in some jurisdictions, landlords face limitations on denying claims due to eviction, Tran-Leung said.
In Philadelphia, for example, landlords cannot have a blanket policy of turning people away because of a prior eviction. Property owners in New York can also face penalties for doing so.
If your rental application was denied, it may be worth trying to speak with the landlord about your story, Nelson said.
“It can be effective for the potential tenant to send a letter to the landlord with the request explaining the background surrounding any eviction cases and providing information about their positive history as a tenant,” she said.
You might also want to explain why you won’t fall behind with a new owner, Tran-Leung said. “If the past eviction was for non-payment of rent, the applicant should be able to show that her income has stabilized or increased significantly, or that the amount of rent she will be responsible for is much lower.”
Consider seeking mental health support
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It’s probably no surprise to anyone who has been evicted: losing your home can be traumatic. A growing body of research reveals that evictions impact people’s mental health in several ways, including increasing their risk of depression, anxiety and insomnia.
Some people may want to seek therapy to process what they’ve been through, experts say.
Open Path connects people with therapists who offer sessions for as little as $30, and the American Psychoanalytic Institute lists centers where psychoanalysts-in-training see patients for a relatively affordable fee. The American Psychological Association website offers a guide to finding professional help.