Do housing court records show up on my credit report?
Sometimes. If your landlord sued you and the housing court issued a judgment against you, the judgment can show up on your credit report as a public record.
What is a judgment?
A judgment is the court’s written, final decision in the case. A housing court case can result in two types of judgments — money judgments and possessory judgments.
What is a money judgment?
A money judgment is the court’s final decision concerning the amount of money that one party owes to the other party. If there is a money judgment against you, it will state how much money you owe to your landlord.
What is a possessory judgment?
A possessory judgment is the court’s final decision concerning who has the right to the apartment. If there is a possessory judgment against you, your landlord will have the right to evict you from your apartment.
What is a stipulation?
Many tenants resolve their housing court cases by signing a stipulation — an agreement between you and your landlord’s lawyer to resolve the case. In a nonpayment case, the stipulation usually provides that you will pay arrears to your landlord according to an agreed-upon schedule. A stipulation can also include an agreement for your landlord to make repairs.
Do I have to have a trial in order to have a judgment against me?
No. These days, most housing court cases are resolved without a trial – but even without a trial, the court can issue a judgment. Many stipulations in housing court cases will include language giving your landlord a judgment against you. If the court approves the stipulation, it can become the court’s judgment.
Also, if you don’t respond to the summons and show up to defend yourself, the court will issue a judgment against you. This is commonly called a “default judgment.” This can be a money judgment, a possessory judgment, or both.
If I have a case in housing court now, can I do something to prevent a judgment from showing up on my credit report?
YES. When you are making a payment agreement, make sure that the stipulation includes the following language: “Upon payment, the judgment will be vacated.” That way, after you pay, you can have the judgment removed. If you are confused, ask the judge or the court attorney for help with this.
You should push for stipulation to include the following language: “Upon payment, the judgment will be vacated and the petition discontinued with prejudice. Petitioner agrees to have the record expunged from the tenant screening report.” This language will prevent the housing court case from appearing in your tenant screening report, a specialized type of credit report often used by landlords to screen potential tenants. For more information on tenant screening reports, look here.
Can I remove a housing court judgment from my credit report?
Yes. If you have paid the arrears, you can try to vacate the housing court judgment by following the steps outlined below. If the judgment is vacated, you can file a dispute with the credit reporting agencies to get it deleted from your credit report, following the steps outlined here.
How do I vacate a housing court judgment?
In order to vacate a housing court judgment, you will have to go to the housing court clerk’s office and ask to file an “Order to Show Cause.” The clerk will give you a pre-printed form to fill out. On the form, you should write that you want to have the judgment vacated because you have paid the arrears as agreed. Be sure to bring proof of payment with you to court, as the clerk or judge may ask to see it. If your stipulation provides that the judgment will be vacated upon payment, you should have no problem getting the judgment vacated. However, if your stipulation does not say anything about vacating the judgment, you may have some difficulty. You still have the right to file an Order to Show Cause and to request to have your judgment vacated, but you should be prepared to advocate for yourself. You should explain to the judge that you need to vacate the judgment in order to remove it from your credit report.
If you have questions about vacating a housing court judgment, contact your housing court attorney, your local legal services office, or Housing Court Answers at 212-962-4795.
What if I can’t get the judgment vacated?
If you have paid the judgment, you should at least make sure that your credit report reflects that you have satisfied the judgment. A satisfied judgment will still have a negative impact on your credit score, but it is better than an unsatisfied judgment. Your landlord’s attorney should have notified the court that you paid the judgment. The court clerk will place a notice called an “Entry of Satisfaction” in your case file. This notice is your official proof that you have satisfied the judgment. The clerk will send a copy of this notice to your landlord’s attorney. You might also receive a copy, but that is not guaranteed.
If your credit report does not indicate that you have satisfied the judgment, you can file a dispute with the credit reporting agency. Be sure to include a copy of the Entry of Satisfaction with your dispute. (If you don’t have a copy, you can get one from your file in the housing court clerk’s office).
If you have paid the judgment, but there is no Entry of Satisfaction in your file, go to the clerk’s office with proof of payment. If it has been more than 20 days since you paid the judgment, you might be able recover $100 from your landlord.
Can I write a 100 word statement to explain the judgment?
Yes. A possible statement could be: “I withheld my rent because my landlord refused to fix a leak in my ceiling. I had a legal right to do this under New York law. As soon as my landlord fixed the ceiling, I paid all the money I owed.”
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