Expungement means removing the record of a court case from the public view. If your eviction court case is expunged, then someone searching court files cannot find a record of your eviction case. Courts can expunge eviction cases in some situations, but it is usually hard to get an expungement of an eviction court case.
Note: Eviction cases used to be called “unlawful detainers” (UDs). Some records might show that you have UDs, this is the same thing as an eviction.
A judge (or referee) decides if a case can be expunged. The law lists things you need to show the judge in order for the judge to expunge a case. But, even if you show all of the things the law says, it is still up to the judge to decide yes or no.
There are a few rare exceptions when a judge has to grant an expungement. They are listed in the section on the next page, Mandatory expungement.
There are 3 types of expungement you can ask for.
If it fits your situation, you can ask for more than one type of expungement.
The property was in foreclosure or contract for deed cancellation
The eviction case was only about you staying at the property too long (holdover), not about nonpayment of rent or breaking your lease (breach), and
At least one of the following is true:
The foreclosure redemption period or time for contract cancellation is over. You moved out before the eviction case was served.
You were a tenant during the foreclosure redemption period or contract cancellation period. Your lease began after the landlord’s mortgage or contract for deed began. You were not given proper notice to end your lease, or you were given proper notice to end your lease, but the eviction case started before the date the notice said you needed to move.
You should ask for a “statutory” expungement if there was something wrong with your landlord’s case. Lots of things could be wrong with your landlord’s case. The landlord’s case could have wrong facts or wrong law, or both.
Wrong facts. The landlord’s case had important facts wrong. Like, the landlord said you didn’t pay your rent on time or broke your lease, but you know these facts are wrong.
Wrong law. The landlord’s case had important laws wrong. Like, the court papers weren’t served the right way, or the case was about nonpayment of rent but there were things at the property that needed repairs.
You need to convince the judge that you deserve an expungement. Be specific about how this case record has affected your life. You have a better chance of getting an expungement if you give lots of details about your situation. Talking about these kinds of things will help your chances of getting an expungement:
How the eviction was because of a hard time in your life, like job loss, medical problems, or divorce.
If you still live at the property the eviction was about.
If this is the only eviction ever filed against you.
If the case is old and you haven’t had any recent evictions.
If you settled the case and did everything you agreed to in the settlement agreement.
If you paid the landlord everything you owe
How the eviction makes it hard for you to find housing – list how many times you have been denied housing because of eviction(s) on your record and how much money you spent on application fees.
Why safe, stable and affordable housing is important to you and your family, and how the eviction keeps you from finding housing.
It’s a lot harder to get a case expunged if you still owe the landlord money. It’s usually best to wait to ask for an expungement until after you have paid back the landlord. If your current situation is really bad, though, the judge might expunge your case even if you still owe the landlord money.
Sometimes, the judge in the eviction case orders you to pay the landlord. This is called a money judgment. Before the landlord can ask the court to collect this money from you, they have to go to conciliation (small claims) court. This is called “docketing” or “transcribing” the judgment. They then have 10 years to collect the judgment from you. Sometimes, landlords won’t do this step until the tenant asks the court to expunge a case. If you still owe the landlord money, try to talk to a lawyer first before filing your expungement motion.
Even if you get the case expunged, the debt you owe to the landlord might show up on a credit report. Many landlords check both credit reports and eviction records when they are renting someone an apartment.
1. Look at all of the court documents in your eviction case including the court’s decision. If you do not have a copy, go to the courthouse where it was filed and ask for one. There may be a cost for copies.
Does the court record show that the landlord did not have a good case? There are many defenses to an eviction case that you could use to try to show the court that the landlord did not have a sufficient basis in fact or law for the case. If possible, meet with a lawyer who knows about eviction cases to help you identify any defenses you may have had to the eviction.
2. There is an Expungement Motion form in the "View or print documents" box on this page.
At the top, fill in:
The name of the county
The Plaintiff’s name or names (your landlord, or the owner) and the Defendant’s name or names (your name). These have to be filled in exactly as they are on the Complaint and Court Order form in the eviction case even if the names are spelled wrong.
The file number of your eviction case
Do not fill in the “Notice of Motion” section until the court gives you a hearing date.
Fill out the rest of the form.
Check the boxes and write in the details about your situation. You can check more than one of the boxes.
Sign your Motion.
Attach copies of any documents that help prove what you’ve said in the motion is true.
3. Go to District Court to file your Motion.
Ask the clerk if you need to fill in the court date on the “Notice of Motion” see attachment. Some counties want you to fill in the date, and some counties don’t.
Check with the clerk to see if a judgment was “entered” in your case. If so, some clerks also want you to fill out a motion to vacate the judgment. The clerk might tell you if you need to do this and give you a form.
Ask the clerk for instructions on how to serve the “Motion” on the Plaintiff.
4. There is a filing fee for an expungement motion. If you have a low income, you can fill out a court fee waiver form (IFP). This form asks the court to waive the fees. The court has these forms or you can create one online.
Check the court records to be sure that the case was removed. The court clerk will tell you when your case will be expunged and how to check the record to make sure that it was removed.
A tenant screening company can’t report an eviction once the company knows it has been expunged. There is a "Letter to Tenant Screening Companies" in the "View or print documents" box on this page. Print this and make 6 copies. Sign them and send one with a copy of your expungement order to each of the tenant screening agencies listed on the top of the letter. Keep the original letter or a copy for your records.
If you get turned down for an apartment, find out what tenant screening agency the landlord used. Call that screening company to make sure they are not reporting the expunged eviction case. See our fact sheet Tenant Screeningfor more information.
See our fact sheets Looking for an Apartmentand Tenant Screening, about finding an apartment with an eviction on your record. Try to apply only to landlords who don’t charge application fees and don’t use tenant screening services.
You have the right to add a statement to your tenant screening record explaining any evictions on your record. Also, make sure your tenant screening report is correct. It may have other wrong information about you. Ask the company to correct any errors in the report. Tenant screening companies can report evictions for 7 years, and landlords can check court files directly for as long as the court keeps records of old eviction cases.