Expungement of Non-Criminal Cases
Sometimes a new landlord might hesitate to rent to you if you have a “negative” or “bad” rental history. Landlords sometimes look at Iowa Courts records of prospective tenants. You should know what is on your rental history before you start searching for housing. To access your eviction history, go to https://www.iowacourts.state.ia.us/ESAWebApp/DefaultFrame and click on “Start A Case Search Here!” Under “Trial Court”, click on “Case Search” and enter your first and last name, click on the box that says “I’m not a robot.” Click on the “Search” box. This will show your criminal history, as well as any civil cases that you have been involved in, including any FED (Forcible Entry and Detainer) cases (eviction cases).
Frequently Asked Questions
No. Iowa currently does not have a general expungement statute. Iowa law allows only for expungement of criminal cases that resulted in acquittal or dismissal, or some, but not all misdemeanor charges. There is no Iowa law that allows for the expungement of civil case records, including evictions, even if you won the case.
Not necessarily. A bad rental history can often result in a denial of your rental application. However, there are ways to show the new landlord that you will be a good tenant.
You should pay off any money you owe to any previous landlords. You can set up a payment plan to make small monthly payments that can make a significant difference.
Explain to the new landlord why you lost your job or source of income. Tell the new landlord how your life is now different and show how you will be able to make rental payments. Ask the landlord for an exception to their rental history policy based on your current stable income.
Explain to the new landlord the situation and how your life has changed. Tell the new landlord that you will be a good tenant: that you will pay your rent on time, keep the home maintained and clean, and that you will not cause any criminal activity. Ask the landlord for an exception to their rental history policy. If the landlord will not make an exception to their policy, keep looking for a property where the landlord will work with your rental history.
You may contact your previous landlords or other people in your life and ask them to give you a good reference for your new housing. You should also print out any eviction dismissals that you have obtained to show your new landlord (do this by following the steps above at https://www.iowacourts.state.ia.us/ESAWebApp/DefaultFrame).
The FCRA regulates “consumer reporting agencies” and “consumer reports.” Consumer reports are concerned with consumer credit reports, but also with information reported on individuals concerning their personal lives. The FCRA applies to information collected, used, or expected to be used to evaluate: an individual’s eligibility for credit, insurance, and employment; the risk assessment and review of consumer accounts; certain government licenses or benefits and child support determinations; and other business transactions involving the consumer as a consumer.
Yes. The Fair Credit Reporting Act covers circumstances under which Credit Reporting Agencies may release reports, and also governs the users of consumer reports. Consumer reports may only be used for permissible purposes under the Act: in response to a court order, in connection with a credit transaction involving the consumer or review or collection of an account of the consumer, in connection with employment, in connection with insurance involving the consumer, in connection with government licenses or other benefits, and for business transactions initiated by the consumer (consumers applying to rent an apartment).
Some landlords use commercial background check companies to provide your credit report to the landlord. Private commercial background check companies such as Corelogic SafeRent run background checks on potential tenants.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act defines a consumer report as involving a consumer’s “credit worthiness, credit standing, credit capacity, character, general reputation, personal characteristics, or mode of living.” For example, the report can include reports about renters’ evictions, rental payment histories, or treatment of premises.
Private commercial background check companies are covered under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which gives you the right to have the information reinvestigated.
If you dispute information contained in your file at a consumer reporting agency, you may notify the agency of the dispute and the agency is required, free of charge, to conduct a reasonable reinvestigation to determine whether the disputed information is inaccurate and record the current status of the disputed information, or delete the item from the file.
The agency must correct the report within 30 days after the date which you notified the company of the dispute. The agency also must notify you that the information has been modified or deleted from your file.
Apply for Help
Iowa Legal Aid provides help to low-income Iowans.
To apply for help from Iowa Legal Aid:
- Call 800-532-1275.
- Iowans age 60 and over, call 800-992-8161.
- Apply online at iowalegalaid.org
If Iowa Legal Aid cannot help, look for an attorney on “Find A Lawyer” on the Iowa State Bar Association website iowabar.org. A private attorney there can talk with you for a fee of $25 for 30 minutes of legal advice.
*As you read this information, remember this article is not a substitute for legal advice.