Myth-Busting Eviction Judgments and Filings

When you’re looking at your applicant’s tenant screening report, it can be easy to get confused about eviction judgments and filings. What’s the difference between the two, and which carries more weight? Where can you see eviction records on the tenant screening report, and what should you do if there is an eviction judgment present? We’ve answered all your burning questions about eviction judgments and filings, and why it matters.

What’s the difference between an eviction judgment and an eviction filing?

The difference between eviction judgments and filings has to do with timing. After the formal eviction notice deadline, rental property owners and landlords can then file for eviction with their local courthouse. After providing the proper paperwork, the clerk will schedule a hearing and notify the resident via a summons. Keep in mind, the renter could choose to voluntarily move out after receiving the summons, thus never incurring an eviction judgment on their record.

The eviction filing becomes an eviction judgment once the court hearing sides with the landlord, property owner, or even renter. Typically, if the resident wins an eviction hearing, most state and city eviction laws automatically expunge the eviction. However, in some areas, the resident does have to file for expungement to remove/seal the eviction record.

Of course, if the landlord or property owner is awarded the judgment, the eviction judgment will stay on the resident’s record (industry standard is for 7 years). In order to remove or seal the record, renters would typically need a valid reason for the courts to grant the expungement.

When it comes to your tenant screening report, ultimately the eviction judgment has more weight as it’s been decided by the court and can’t be easily expunged. That doesn’t mean filings should be taken lightly, but without a judgment, there isn’t a legal record of who (the property owner or renter) really was at fault.

Where can I see eviction judgments and filings on my applicant’s tenant screening report?

If your tenant screening reports include eviction records like CIC’s does, you’ll be able to see all of your applicant’s eviction judgments and any filings in jurisdictions that allow reporting. Make sure your screening service offers nationwide eviction records and not just eviction data from your state!

If your tenant screening service doesn’t offer eviction data, you might be able to see monetary judgments on the credit report, but it won’t include any non-monetary civil cases like judgments for possession. You also won’t see any filings.

As for the criminal report, evictions are typically filed as civil records and will not appear as a criminal record. An eviction will only appear as a criminal record if there is some type of criminal charge attached to the eviction.

Frankly, unless your tenant screening service explicitly includes nationwide eviction data, the chances that you’ll even see your applicants’ eviction records on any of your tenant screening reports are incredibly slim.

Where can I see eviction judgments and filings on my applicant’s tenant screening report?

Just like when you’re dealing with criminal records, creating a strict ‘no evictions’ policy can legally bite you in the butt down the line. Keep in mind that evictions can happen for a myriad of reasons, some of which aren’t good indicators of whether an applicant would be a good resident.

If you’re able to ask your applicants if they’ve been evicted on your rental application (consult a lawyer beforehand), add some space for the applicant to explain why they were evicted. This can reveal a lot about the applicant and help guide your decision. For example, consider the following:

1. Timing

Timing can be a huge factor when looking at eviction records. Years in which an applicant was affected by a major recession or a natural disaster like a hurricane or wildfire can greatly influence an eviction and reflect very little about how trustworthy or financially stable the applicant is currently.

2. Time Between Judgment

Most evictions are monetary evictions, meaning the applicant couldn’t pay their rent. Although this could be a result of a loss of employment or a failed business venture, it can be difficult to feel comfortable renting to someone with a prior monetary eviction judgment. When reviewing an applicant with this kind of judgment reason, look at the length of time between now and judgment and their proof of employment (pay stubs or bank statements). If the applicant hasn’t had another eviction for the past 4 or 5 years, and looks financially sound, it might be an indicator that the applicant is back on their feet.

3. Number of Eviction Judgments

In combination of the factors above, you’ll want to incorporate the applicant’s total number of evictions into your written rental policy. While you might be comfortable with 1 or 2 given it meets certain criteria, 5 or 6 is probably a big red flag.

While you’re considering your applicant’s eviction judgments and filings, it’s important to remember why you’re factoring eviction records (if you tenant screening service provides it) into your leasing process in the first place. Do you use eviction records to gauge financial responsibility? Does it help you find trust-worthy residents? Understanding the reasons why you even consider eviction records can guide you in your process of reevaluating your written rental standards and provide judgments and filings with some objective weight.

Confused by the tenant screening report? Let us know your burning questions in the comments!

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Becky Bower is the Content Strategist here at the CIC Blog. She holds a degree in English, with a focus in creative writing, from CSU Channel Islands. Her biggest weakness is cake and favorite superhero is Batman.

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