Clean up credit before finding new apartment
To Her Credit
Sally Herigstad is a certified public accountant and the author of "Help! I Can't Pay My Bills: Surviving a Financial Crisis" (St. Martin's Press, 2006). She writes "To Her Credit," a weekly reader Q&A column about issues involving women, credit and debt, for CreditCards.com, and also writes regularly for MSN Money, Interest.com and Bankrate.com, and has guested on Martha Stewart Radio and other programs. See her website SallyHerigstad.com
for more personal finance tips and free budgeting worksheets.
Ask Sally a question
, or read her previous answers in the To Her Credit archive
Dear To Her Credit,
How do you go about having an eviction removed from your
My boyfriend and I want to rent a place together, but he has
a few delinquencies we are taking care of, this eviction being the big one. His
ex paid the company and had it taken off her credit report, but it was never
taken off of his.
Keep in mind, it takes seven years before it falls off the
report and my boyfriend is in year four. Thanks in advance for any information
you can provide! -- Emily
How do you have true, negative
marks removed from your account? You don't.
I think your boyfriend's ex may
be confused as well. Here's why:
- You generally can't pay to have accurate information
removed from your credit report. Credit reporting is not designed to work that
Credit reports do not show records of evictions. According
to Wayne Sanford, president of the credit consulting company New Start
Financial, "If you are evicted,
then it will show up as a collection as any apartment debt a consumer owes,
such as cleaning fees or lease breaking."
However, it is true that paying
off the amount your boyfriend owed his old landlord will improve his credit.
Sanford explains where some of
the confusion may come from. He's heard of collectors making it sound like the
debt will no longer be on your report once paid. That is partly true as the
outstanding balance is shown as paid in full. However, he says, "The
negative account and its reporting will stay on for another seven years from
the last payment."
Sanford also notes, "Two of
the largest apartment collectors, Hunter Warfield and Rent Debt, do not offer 'pay for deletions.'"
Here's what you and your
boyfriend should do.
First, check both your credit
reports, if you haven't done so already. You can pull them for free once a year
from each of the big three credit bureaus at AnnualCreditReport.com. Never
assume you know what's on them. If you see erroneous information, be sure to
have those items removed by disputing them. If either of you have negative marks for which you have an
explanation -- for example, if your boyfriend was unemployed or hospitalized when
he fell behind on bills -- add a 100-word statement to your credit report.
Still looking at your credit
reports, try to determine what you can do to improve your credit scores (you
have to pay about $20 each to get your FICO scores at myFICO.com). You may boost your
scores if you pay down your credit card balances, for example. You can also improve
your credit utilization ratio by having your credit card's credit limit increased. (Don't
use the higher credit limits, or you'll be in worse shape than before!) Pay off
any other outstanding debts, such as medical bills, that show up on your
When you apply for an apartment
and your are asked for permission to pull your credit, you should explain
remaining negative marks. There's no need to tell them your boyfriend has been
evicted. Just point out his good history of paying rent and bills since then.
Remember that negative marks from four years ago are far less relevant than
more current information.
From now on, the best way to improve
your credit score is to always, always pay bills on time. Consider setting up
minimum payments with your bank online, so you never have late payments. When
the bill comes, you only have to pay the remaining balance. When the two of you
become fanatical about paying bills before they are due, your credit scores
should start looking better, and your chances of landing the place you want
should quickly improve.
See related: FICO's 5 factors: The components of a FICO credit score
Meet CreditCards.com's reader Q&A experts
Vexed by a personal finance problem?
CreditCards.com's Q&A experts answer questions from readers every weekday. Ask a question, or click on any expert to see their previous answers.
Published: March 21, 2014