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.
Expungement within the court’s inherent authority
If it fits your situation, you can check off more than one type of expungement on the court form.
The judge can decide to expunge your case if you show these 3 things:
The landlord's case was sufficiently without basis in fact or law
It is clearly in the interests of justice to expunge the case and
The public’s interest in knowing about the case is not stronger than the justice that would be accomplished by expunging the case.
Here are examples of ways you can show these 3 things:
For # 1: You can talk about things that were wrong with the case. 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.
For #2: You can explain if the eviction was related to a hard time in your life, like job loss, medical problems, or divorce. If you still live at the property the eviction was about, make sure you explain that. Tell why expungement is important to you.
For #3: If this is the only eviction ever filed against you or if the case is old and you haven’t had any recent evictions you can explain that in #3. Also talk about 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. Explain why safe, stable and affordable housing is important to you and your family, and how the case prevents you from finding housing.
In Minnesota a judge can expunge a case because the court has “inherent authority” over its own files. This means a judge can decide to expunge your case if the judge feels it is deserved. You need to show these 2 things:
Expungement is necessary to the performance of a judicial function. Expungement is necessary for justice and
The benefits of expungement to you are equal to, or greater than, any disadvantage to the public from not being able to see the case and any work the court has to do to expunge the case.
For #1 explain why it is fair to expunge the case. Look at the examples for #1 and #2 above for ideas.
For #2 explain why it’s important to you to have the case expunged. Look at the examples for #3 above for ideas.
There are a few rare cases when the judge has to expunge your case. The judge has to expunge your case if you prove:
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.
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 box by the kind of expungement you are asking for. You can check more than one.
If there is nothing wrong with the landlord’s case do not check Statutory Expungement and do not fill out #4. Fill out #5, #6 and #7.
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.