It’s more difficult, but it’s still possible.
Back in August 2020, the Aspen Institute analyzed U.S. Census data to calculate that without “swift intervention” there might be an estimated 30 to 40 million people in America at risk for eviction, with 29 to 43 percent of renter households at risk of eviction by the end of 2020.
Here we are in early 2021, and some “swift intervention” has arrived in the form of an extension of a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention nationwide ban on “certain residential evictions.” The CDC order, which defines a temporary halt to residential evictions to prevent the further spread of COVID-19, went into effect on Sept. 4 and was to end on Dec. 31, 2020. It’s now in effect until March 31.
Aside from any federal rules, many states have put their own eviction bans in place. The NOLO legal information website has a list of state eviction protections. Princeton University’s Eviction Lab monitors weekly reports through its Eviction Tracking System with nearly real-time updates on states’ moratoria. For more updates, check with a legal aid organization where you live.
All good news but cold comfort if you’re one of the people who has already been evicted. Although it’s never a good time to leave your place of residence, to have to do so during a global pandemic adds an extra layer of fear and uncertainty. Aside from health worries, how do you get an apartment with an eviction? What happens to your credit? Will you be able to rent again?
What are the reasons for an eviction?
The following are some reasons you might face eviction:
- Behind in rent
- Won’t leave the property after the lease is up
- Violated the terms of the lease
- Engaged in illegal activity
- Damaged the property
What does an eviction mean?
Landlords have to follow a series of legal steps before they can put you out. They can’t just change the locks while you’re not home.
Usually, but depending on local laws, the landlord has 30 days to notify you in writing that they’re terminating your lease. They must attend a hearing and make a case for why you, the renter, need to leave. If the landlord wins the case, and you don’t leave or make changes — by paying the back rent, for example — they will then contact law enforcement and schedule an eviction date. A sheriff or marshal will give you notice that law enforcement will arrive a few days hence to escort you off the premises.
You can, of course, defend yourself against an eviction if you believe it’s wrongful — a landlord’s illegal activity, the property is uninhabitable, the landlord is retaliating against you for demanding repairs.
Will eviction affect your credit?
An eviction shows up on your legal record, which future landlords will be able to access, and remains there for seven years. The eviction will not show up on your credit report, but it may affect your credit in these ways:
- Your landlord may have sent unpaid rent information to a collections agency
- If your landlord sues you in court for unpaid rent and wins, you’ll have a civil judgment against you. That civil judgment will show up on your credit history.
You can petition the court to expunge the eviction from your legal record. You can then contact the credit reporting agencies to remove the civil judgment from your credit report. Getting rid of the collections agency from your credit report will be more difficult.
If unpaid rent was the reason for your eviction, do all you can to make amends with your previous landlord or the collections agency. That includes paying back what you owe.
What steps can you take to rent again?
You may have trouble finding apartments that accept evictions. For one thing, many property owners require a background check, but it’s possible to find some private owners who ask only for reference letters or apartments with eviction forgiveness. So, check upfront about how they will vet you.
While you’re looking for an apartment that accepts evictions, spend time rebuilding your own personal portfolio to show future landlords you’re worth any perceived risk:
1. Rebuild your credit
If you were delinquent in rent and got backed up on other bills, you’ll have dings on your credit report. You may want to engage a credit counselor to help in consolidating debt and creating a debt-management plan. (Check the Federal Trade Commission website for information on credit counselors.)
Ultimately, you’ll need to make a commitment — and stick to it — to pay all bills on time every time. Reduce your credit card balances and don’t apply for new credit cards. Keep in mind, rebuilding your credit will take time.
2. Write a letter of credit
You’ve got to convince a new landlord that you’re creditworthy. Be transparent and honest about your credit history and let a prospective landlord know that you’ve learned from past mistakes and will move forward responsibly.
You can do this by phone or by writing a letter in which you explain your circumstances. Offer details about how those have changed, e.g. you now have a higher paying job and define how you’re working to rebuild your credit. Back up your claims with pay stubs and reference letters.
3. Have references ready
Perhaps you have previous rental experience in which you were never late on payments. Get that landlord to write a letter attesting to that. You can also get employers, business partners, family and friends to write letters on your behalf.
4. Sweeten the deal
If you can afford it, offer to pay upfront more than what might be asked of you. Perhaps you can swing first and last month’s rent. Or, offer to pay a higher security deposit. Have a co-signer ready to help back your lease agreement. This makes you less of a risk.
You can find apartments that accept evictions
You want to make a good impression when you meet a prospective landlord to make your case. Dress neatly, stay calm, be honest and focus on your positive attributes. Although it might seem like it, an eviction is not the end of the world. Stay positive and spend time researching and preparing for how to get an apartment with an eviction.