How do I find out what is on my credit report and my criminal record?
Finding an apartment to rent can be tough enough, especially in a strong housing market, without negative information on your credit report or criminal record. Recently on our legal forum a user asked, “I have been trying to rent an apartment. I have not been able to rent one, and I think it may be due to negative information either on my criminal record or my credit report. Can you help me find out what is on the reports and give me more information about clearing them?"
What is your credit report?
Every consumer has a credit report which contains information about them. Information contained on this report can include how much credit you have, rental payment information, public records (i.e., liens, judgments, bankruptcies), outstanding credit card debt, how much credit you have available, and mortgage information.
Your credit report is maintained by the three credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TranUunion. Your credit report can be requested by creditors, landlords, utility companies, employers, and businesses who are deciding whether or not to offer you a product or service.
As you can see, your credit report is very important, and misinformation on your report can be detrimental to finding employment, getting a loan, or finding a place to rent.
Cleaning up your credit report
So what do you do if you think there is incorrect information on your report? It’s time to request a copy and take a look. Each year you are allowed a free copy of each report from each credit agency. If you find any incorrect information you need to work directly with the credit agencies to get the information corrected.
What if you have accurate information which is hurting your credit?
Unfortunately, there can also be accurate, negative information on your credit report which is lowering your credit score. For instance, if you have filed bankruptcy, this action can remain on your credit report 7 to 10 years. Additionally, if you refuse to pay a creditor they can report that to the credit bureau. If the creditor decides to sue you and wins a judgment that will also be reported and will remain on your credit reports for a number of years.
Although you can clear up any mistakes on your credit report, if the information is accurate, it will remain on your report for a number of years and may make it difficult to get credit or find an apartment. The only thing can you do in this situation is to pay your bills on time and avoid any actions which will continue to hurt your credit.
Criminal record and expunging my record
Although the government offers certain individuals legal protection against discrimination in housing for certain factors such as race, ethnicity, religion, disability, or family status, there is no such protection for criminals.
With this in mind, it’s important to make sure that your criminal record is clear. Clearing or expunging your record may be possible for certain types of crimes. If expungment is possible, you may be able to have your arrest record removed from the official records of the arresting authority and the Department of State Police and removed from the official index kept by the Circuit Clerk. You may also be able to eliminate the right of employers and law enforcement officials to review your record.
How do I expunge my criminal record?
Unfortunately, the types of crimes which can be expunged and the process for expunging your records will vary by state. Review your state laws for more information. Generally, however, cases such as the following can be expunged:
- Cases in which you are acquitted or released without conviction
- Cases in which the Governor has issued a pardon
- Cases in which an order was entered terminating probation
- Certain drug use charges
- Uninsured Motor Vehicle charges
- Display of False Insurance
- Reckless Driving
- Domestic Battery
States also have a list of cases which cannot be expunged. This list will also vary by state but may include some of the following convictions:
- Aggravated Assault
- Aggravated Battery
- Illegal use of explosives
- Child abuse or Aggravated Child Abuse
- Abuse of an elderly person or disabled adult, or aggravated abuse of an elderly person or disabled adult
- Aircraft piracy
- Sexual Battery
Mistakes on credit reports can be cleared up. Accurate reporting of negative financial information will remain on your credit report for a time period which is specified under state or federal laws. Criminal arrests which were not pursued, which were pardoned, or which resulted in an acquittal can generally be expunged immediately. Other charges may also be expunged, but you will have to review your state’s laws for more details.
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Joint bank accounts may not be protected from garnishment.