What Is an Eviction and How Does It Impact Your Credit?

The Process and Financial Fallout of Being Evicted

Older woman reads a notice at home while looking concerned.

 Andrew Bret Wallis / Getty Images

An eviction is a legal process in which a landlord removes a tenant from a rental property. Many evictions happen for lease violations like not paying rent.

Eviction does not show up on your credit score, but it may appear on other consumer reports and make it harder for you to rent in the future. If you owe any unpaid rent or court fees, those debts can show up on your credit report and lower your credit score.

Learn what happens during an eviction, what your options are, and what long-term effects it can have on your finances.

Reasons for Eviction

A landlord cannot evict a tenant for no reason, and the reason for the eviction must be legally recognized by the state. These reasons vary depending on where you are renting.

The lease paperwork will outline the reasons you can be evicted, which may include:

  • Failure to pay rent
  • Repeatedly late payment of rent
  • Having too many people in residence
  • Using a business property as a residence
  • Subleasing without permission
  • Behavior that interferes with or inconveniences other tenants
  • Refusing a reasonable and legal change to your rent or to the terms of your lease
  • Damaging the property
  • Using the property for illegal reasons

Tenants often are evicted for breaking the terms of their lease. However, there are also reasons that have nothing to do with the behavior of the tenant. You can be evicted if your landlord needs or wants to:

  • Occupy the property for personal use
  • Renovate or substantially rehabilitate the property in a way that prevents you from safely occupying it
  • Demolish the building you are renting
  • Convert the rental property into a condominium or other cooperative (with government approval)

The reasons for eviction will vary based on the type of property you are renting, how your landlord allows that property to be used, and the eviction laws of the state where you are renting.

What Happens When You Receive an Eviction Notice

Even though eviction laws vary by state, eviction should not come as a surprise. Landlords are required to give notice (in writing) to the tenant to clear up the issue or leave the rental property before the legal eviction process can begin.

The timing of this notice varies by state; some require only two or three days, while others require notice of up to 30 days before the legal proceedings will begin.

If there is no formal lease, state law determines how much notice a landlord must give before beginning eviction proceedings. For example, if you are renting month-to-month, the landlord must usually give one month's notice.

Once you receive a notice that you are going to be evicted, you can do one of three things:

  • Attempt to "cure," or resolve, the violation
  • Move out before you are evicted
  • Stay and contest the eviction in court

Resolving the Violation

For many lease violations, you can receive a notice to "cure or quit." This means you have the option to resolve the violation within a set number of days to avoid moving out or being evicted.

For example, if you are being evicted for an issue like failure to pay rent, the cure would be immediately paying all the rent you owe. If you are subletting to a roommate without permission, the roommate would need to move out.

You will likely also have to pay the cost of any fees that the landlord incurred to file the notice.

If you fix the problem after receiving a cure or quit notice, always obtain a written record that you have done your rent or otherwise resolved the situation in the time stated on the notice. You may need to present this as evidence in court if you are still summoned to appear.

In some states, landlords can give you an "unconditional notice to quit." This means you do not have the option to remain in the property, even if you are able to resolve the violation. Other states allow an unconditional notice to quit for some violations but not others.

For example, if you receive an unconditional notice to quit for not paying rent, you must pay the rent you owe and move out or be evicted. You do not have the option to pay your rent and stay.

If you are being evicted for nuisance activity (such as harassing other tenants) or illegal activity (such as making or selling drugs on the property) you will most likely receive an unconditional notice to quit.

Moving Out Before Eviction

If you receive either a cure and quit notice or unconditional notice to quit, you can choose to move out and avoid the court eviction process altogether.

Once you move out, you will still need to pay any rent or fees that are still due to your landlord. Otherwise, you may be taken to civil court or have your debt turned over to a collections agency. 

Going to Court for Eviction

If you don't move out or resolve the issue leading to your eviction without the amount of time stated on the notice, your landlord can begin eviction proceedings against you in court. You may also choose to contest the eviction in court if you believe you are being evicted unfairly.

You must respond to any legal summons to appear in court, even if you've already moved out of the property, paid the rent you owe, or otherwise resolved the issue that caused the eviction to be filed.

Once the legal eviction proceedings begin, you will have to appear in court. The judge will then rule either in favor of you or the landlord. If the judgment is in favor of the landlord, you will have to:

  • Move out in the timeframe the court allows
  • Pay any rent you owe
  • Repay any legal fees that the court orders you to pay

How an Eviction Affects Your Credit 

The eviction won't directly show up on your credit report, but eviction-related information may. If the landlord uses the court to evict you and obtains a judgment against you, the judgment resulting from that eviction is a matter of public record and can appear in some consumer reports.

Having a judgment against you will make it harder to rent in the future. It can also hurt your chances of getting approved for a credit card or loan.

If you have a judgment for a property management company on a public consumer report, any business checking that report can reasonably assume that you were evicted.

Although your credit score isn't directly impacted by an eviction, it is impacted by collections for any unpaid rent and court fees that you owe. This debt can show up in your credit report and lower your credit score.

Like most other types of negative information, the eviction can stay on your credit report for up to seven years. If the statute of limitations for unpaid judgments is more than seven years in your state, the eviction can be reported up until the statute of limitations runs out.

You should pay off what you owe from the judgment as soon as you can afford to do so. Paying off the judgment won't remove it from your credit report, but it may improve your chances of getting a rental in the future, especially as the eviction and the judgment age.

Even if you move before the eviction goes to court, your credit can still be affected. For example, if you still owe rent or fees, the landlord can use a collection agency or take you to small claims court. This will go on your credit report and hurt your credit score.

Some landlords report to tenant screening services, like Experian's RentBureau or TransUnion's SmartMove. Even though your credit report may not read "eviction", a check with one of these services will reveal your eviction record.

Preventing Eviction

Being evicted will make it difficult to continue renting in the future. The best way to avoid being evicted is to pay your rent on time and comply with the terms of your lease.

If you are worried that you will be unable to pay your rent, talk to your landlord about the issue and try to work out a deal to avoid the eviction process. Your landlord may be willing to create a payment plan, temporarily lower your rent, accept delayed payments, or otherwise come up with a plan that works for both of you.

You can also look for local agencies and government organizations that offer rent payment assistance. The aid that these programs provide is usually temporary, but it may be enough to help you get your finances in order to avoid facing eviction.