Question: I was served an eviction two years ago from my current landlord. It went to court and was resolved by settlement agreement, but it’s on my credit report and I’m now looking for a new place to live. I found some information on how to remove the eviction from my credit report on the Internet. I’ve written to the reporting agency to have the record removed from my record, but I understand that it will take about 30 days to correct the information. In the meantime, what’s the best way to explain to potential landlords what happened? I do have a copy of the Stipulation for Entry of Judgment of Dismissal with Prejudice from the court, which I can include in my application. I can verbally explain the situation as well, and I have excellent credit, as well as a glowing reference from my previous landlord. Is this sufficient enough action to take until it’s taken off my record?

Tenants’ attorney Kellman replies:

Unfortunately, even though your case was dismissed with a settlement, you still face landlord prejudice. This is a belief shared by many landlords that any eviction action filed was due to the tenant’s fault and that if a tenant has an eviction filing on his/her record, that tenant was guilty of something. This belief is reinforced by the relative high rate of “convictions” of tenants in eviction court. The truth is that most of those tenants lost in court because they did not defend their rights properly. They believe that all landlords are good people and none of them would file an eviction when they had no case against a tenant. The truth is that many evictions are filed when the landlord has no case at all. Some filings are the result of simple errors or misunderstandings, while others are landlords trying to get away with a wrongful eviction. For those tenants who properly defend their cases, many are settled to the mutual satisfaction of the landlord and tenant and result in a dismissal. These cases even include ones where the tenant could have won in court but settled instead. The idea of blacklisting tenants who have a case on their record is not fair or reasonable. The landlord should look into the facts of that eviction situation before making a decision about an application to rent. The credit reporting company should either remove the dismissal from your record or at least place an explanation about the settlement. Until they act, you will need to show any new landlord the settlement agreement to explain the matter was resolved to everyone’s satisfaction and hope this landlord does not share the above prejudices.

Question: I can’t possibly afford to pay the asking price for investment properties in my area so I am interested in bidding on a residential rental property that is currently in the middle of a foreclosure action. The auction is on the courthouse steps in a couple of weeks. Where do I start?

Property manager Griswold replies:

You need to thoroughly check out the property so you know as much as possible about what you are buying. Buying foreclosure properties in most metropolitan areas is a very competitive process fraught with pitfalls. I seriously suggest only the savvy and experienced real estate investor with the ability to absorb some bad purchases get into this area. In general terms, you want to look for recorded and unrecorded liens and physical problems with the property. You should also read some books on foreclosures to understand the process and the specific laws in your state. One of the most important issues you need to resolve before making a bid is to determine what rights, if any, the involuntary seller of the property has to redeem the property or regain possession.

This column on issues confronting tenants and landlords is written by property manager Robert Griswold, author of “Property Management for Dummies,” and San Diego attorneys Steven R. Kellman, director of the Tenant’s Legal Center, and Ted Smith, principal in a firm representing landlords.

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