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VOLUME 5R3 Ways Evicted Renters Can Secure a New Lease By Nikki Davidson Photo credit: Shopify Partners/BurstAn eviction can be like a dark cloud hanging over the head of a hopeful tenant. Landlords are looking for people they can trust to pay rent on time and respect the property — and eviction suggests that may not be the case.
Fresh off of pandemic-induced eviction moratoriums, many landlords have raised their standards for tenants. In a survey by The Urban Institute, 39% of landlords reported being more stringent on screening criteria. The survey also reported that landlords are most concerned about previous evictions.
This sentiment could be a problem for a lot of renters. According to the Eviction Lab, a Princeton University program that tracks the eviction crisis, nationwide evictions have increased to pre-pandemic levels as federal-rental-relief programs have expired. The agency reports that 3.6 million evictions are filed nationwide in a typical year. Since the onset of the pandemic in 2020, landlords have filed 35,000 evictions in Tampa and more than 121,000 in Houston.
Finding a new rental home under the dark cloud of eviction can be challenging but not impossible. The following are three strategies that can help evicted renters gain a potential landlord's trust.
Be Transparent About the Eviction Evictions are public records if they result in a court judgment or if a landlord filed a report with a collections agency for unpaid rent. The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act stipulates that evictions can appear on tenant screening records for up to seven years. An eviction involving unpaid rent or fees may also show up on their credit history report.
Ideally, a potential tenant will be familiar with their records and know exactly what will pop up in a background or credit check. By law, anyone can get a free copy of their entire credit report once every year from major credit reporting bureaus. It's trickier for tenants to get their hands on their rental screening report, as they'll have to pay an agency to run their background check.
Knowing what a landlord will find or won't find gives potential tenants a chance to get ahead of the situation and explain what happened. A tenant can be ready for the conversation equipped with points that may make a landlord more open to a deal, like offering extra references and complete transparency about what led to the eviction.
If an eviction is a dealbreaker for a particular landlord, the tenant will at least avoid the cost of an application that will automatically be rejected.
Get the Eviction Removed or Corrected An eviction record isn't necessarily set in stone, and a few different circumstances can lead to the case being expunged or sealed in a way that keeps it from popping up on renter reports.If a Landlord Broke Housing LawsTenants may have a case to get an eviction expunged by a judge if they can supply proof that they didn't violate the terms of their lease, or if their landlord didn't give proper eviction notification or abide by housing laws. Fair Housing Rights protect tenants from being evicted due to race, color, religion, sexual orientation or identity, national origin, disability, or familial status.
If multiple tenants are behind in their rent payments, they must receive the same treatment. If tenants have proof that other residents were also behind on their rent but did not get evicted, they may have a case with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development regarding the landlord violating housing laws. They can request a judge to appeal their eviction case or expunge it from their records. However, the onus would be on the tenant to have strong proof that a landlord is picking and choosing who will be evicted based on any of the protected characteristics mentioned above.
Note: For non-HUD cases, Texas tenants who want their prior evictions expunged altogether are encouraged to seek legal counsel. Tenant Protections Under the 56th Emergency Order (formerly the Texas Eviction Diversion Program) is currently on hold. However, rental assistance may be an option.Photo credit: John Tekeridis/PexelsThe Eviction Dispute Has Been SettledIt's not wise to burn a bridge with a landlord during the eviction process because they still have a lot of power over how much the situation could affect the renter in the long term. If the renter can pay all outstanding debts and settle disputes, they can petition the court to seal the eviction record. The legal process often requires the landlord's assistance to communicate to the judge that the renter paid in full. A tenant can also ask a landlord to remove the record from tenant screening reports once everything has been paid and squared away.
Prove an Eviction Won’t Happen AgainEvictions are often due to financial hardships, a challenge that can happen to anyone. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2021, roughly 800,000 renters nationwide faced threats of eviction. Landlords may not fault a renter for going through a difficult time, but they want to know that their situation has changed and prospective renters can pay rent on time.
Applicants with an eviction history may sway a landlord's opinion if they've got plenty of evidence that shows their financial circumstances have changed. Proof could entail offering to pay a few months’ rent in advance, agreeing to a larger security deposit or even adding a co-signer to the lease.
A complicated rental history can be challenging when dealing with larger rental corporations. Tenants may have the best chance to build connections with private landlords with single-family homes who have more flexibility when deciding if they'll rent to prospective tenants with evictions in their past.
The stain of a prior eviction doesn't have to last forever; tenants can fix their rental history with time and patience.