Why Your Rental Applications Keep Getting Denied—and How to Fix it
Authored By: Northwest Justice Project
Many landlords automatically turn down (deny) rental applications from anyone with any “eviction record.” This means an unlawful detainer (eviction) appears on your tenant-screening report. These reports usually include all filed cases dating back at least 7 years, even if you resolved them. A landlord could deny your application because of an eviction record, even if the judge or landlord dismissed the case before trial, or you won, or the case is very old. State law at RCW 59.18.367 may allow you to get an order from the eviction court that stops tenant screening companies from using your eviction record when you apply for housing. #6303EN
* Read this only if you live in the state of Washington.
*Eviction law continues to change. Read about the latest changes to eviction laws.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
How can I keep my eviction record from working against me? +
If you get an Order of Limited Dissemination from the court, tenant screening companies cannot tell your landlord about the eviction or use it in calculating a rental score or making a recommendation. You must:
- Ask the court for an order that stops these companies from using the eviction record.
- Send a copy of the order to any company doing a tenant screening for your landlord to make sure they do not report your eviction. We have a sample cover letter below.
This order does not keep a potential landlord from asking if you have ever been evicted or looking up the records on their own. It does keep the tenant screening report from telling the landlord about the eviction.
*Domestic violence victims only: If you were not at fault for your eviction, you can try to get the court to redact (black out your name) or change the court record, so your name does not appear. The law permits this only in a few cases.
Can I get an Order of Limited Dissemination? +
Possibly, if you were a defendant in an eviction case and you have “good cause” for the court to limit dissemination of the record. There are 3 kinds of good cause:
- The court found that the landlord’s case was “sufficiently without basis in fact or law.” This means you won the case by showing the landlord was wrong.
- You “reinstated” the tenancy. This means that after the landlord filed an eviction, you fixed the problem with the landlord, such as by paying off a rent balance. You then continued to stay in the unit.
- You might be able to persuade the court that you have “other good cause.” Some examples: you had a good defense to the eviction case and settled the matter out of court. OR the landlord agrees you have good cause to limit dissemination. OR you have strong evidence that your circumstances have improved since the eviction, like you got a new job, housing voucher, or treatment for mental health issues or a substance use problem that caused the eviction.
I am currently in an eviction. Can I get an Order of Limited Dissemination? +
Maybe. You can
- Ask the court to order limiting dissemination of the court record.
- Ask the landlord or attorney to agree (stipulate) to the entry of this order. The landlord may agree to this if you agree to something in return, such as paying rent you owe or promising to move out. You can ask the landlord to sign off on your proposed court Order. (See instructions for filling out forms, below.)
If your case is already over, you can also use the process below.
My eviction case is already over. How do I get an Order of Limited Dissemination? +
You must file a motion and then have a hearing before a judge or commissioner. You must give (serve) your landlord a copy of the paperwork. The landlord can come to the hearing and object to the order.
How do I fill out the forms? +
You can use the blank forms in the attached packet.
- The landlord in the eviction is the plaintiff. You and any others that lived with you are the defendants.
- A caption is a heading required on court documents. It identifies the names of the parties (defendants and plaintiffs), the court’s name, and other required information.
Instructions for the “Motion for Order of Limited Dissemination”Fill out the caption with your name (Respondent), landlord’s name (Petitioner), court’s name (County), and court case number from the eviction.
I. Relief Requested. In the first blank, put your full legal name. In the second blank, put the case number.
II. Statement of Facts/Statement of Grounds. In the first short blank, put the case number. Then put the facts that support your motion.
- Example 1: My landlord filed the eviction action on August 1, 2017. The court dismissed the case on August 3, 2017 after the landlord and I came to agreement about different issues. I still live in the unit.
- Example 2: The landlord filed the eviction action on August 1, 2017. I filed an Answer and Counterclaims on August 5, 2017. After a trial on August 30, 2017, this court ruled in my favor.
- Example 3: The landlord and I entered into a 1-year lease agreement on February 1, 2017. The landlord filed the eviction action on August 1, 2017. At trial on August 30, 2017, this court found I owed $300 in late rent plus fees. On August 31, 2017, I paid the entire amount owed plus landlord’s attorney fees into the court registry.
III. Statement of Issues. In this section, you connect the facts of your case to the relevant section of the new law. You must state the issue as a question.
- Example 1: Does the dismissal of this unlawful detainer on August 3, 2017, constitute a finding that plaintiff’s case was sufficiently without basis in fact or law?
- Example 2: Does the court’s ruling in the defendant’s favor in the eviction action constitute a finding that defendant’s case was sufficiently without basis in law or fact?
- Example 3: Did defendant’s payment of the judgment and costs constitute reinstatement of the tenancy?
IV. Evidence Relied Upon. List any declarations or other evidence you are filing with your motion. Your evidence could include: copies of emails or letters between you and the landlord, or proof that you paid anything you owed the landlord.
V. Legal Authority. This section is very important. Check all boxes that apply.
Person making this motion fills out below. Sign and date the motion. Print or type your address. Ask the clerk if your county has their own form for this. If so, use theirs.If your county does not have their own form, fill out the caption as you did for the motion.
- Getting a hearing date and time: Call the court clerk for the Superior Court in your county. Tell them what type of motion you are filing. Ask for a hearing date. Every county has its own rules about how many days before a hearing to file a motion. Ask the clerk when you must file the motion. In most counties, it is at least 7 days before the hearing. Put the info they give you in the appropriate spaces.
Sign your name and put the date you signed. Fill out the caption.
On the first line, put your name.
Fill out the declaration statement after “I DECLARE that:” with the facts you put in your motion under “II. Statement of Facts/Statement of Grounds". Put the date and place you are signing this form. Then sign. Fill out the caption.
Put your name in all 3 blanks in the body of the order.
At the end of the Order, sign under presented by. If the landlord had agreed in advance to this Order, you can ask the landlord (or their attorney) to sign under approved by.
- Leave the blank under judge/commissioner for the judge to sign if the judge decides in your favor.
You can create your own version of this letter after you get your court order signed by the judge. Do not file this letter with the court or give it to the judge! See I won the hearing! Now what? below.
I filled out the forms. Now what? +
Now you must:
- make copies
- make sets of those copies
- have a set served on the landlord or landlord’s attorney. See note below.
- file your original papers with the court
Here are more detailed instructions for each step:
- Make copies: Make 3 copies of every paper. Here is the full list of court papers:
- Motion for Order of Limited Dissemination
- Declaration of Defendant
- Any other attachment you are including (any attachments you mentioned in your Declaration, such as financial documents)
- Order (your proposed Order)
- Make sets of those copies: Make 3 full sets of copies of your papers: 1 for you, 1 for the landlord or landlord’s attorney, and 1 for the judge for “working papers”.
* Working papers, also called working copies, are a courtesy set for the judge. Sometimes the originals do not make it into the court file in time for the judge to read them. Read What are Working Copies , available at WashingtonLawHelp.org, to learn more.
- Deliver (serve) the papers: You (or someone else age 18 or over) must deliver a set of copies to the landlord, either in-person or by mail.
* If the landlord had an attorney in the eviction case, and it is not yet 30 days since entry of the ruling in that case or 63 days since the filing of the last pleading in that case, you must have the landlord’s attorney served. Follow the instructions below, but for the landlord’s attorney.
If you hand-deliver the papers to the landlord’s office, ask someone who works there to sign the Affidavit of Service. This is your proof they got their copies. After serving the landlord, you fill out the Affidavit of Service with both of these:
- The date you served the landlord.
- How you served the landlord.
If you mailed the papers, you must put both of these:
- The name of the person who mailed it.
- The date they mailed the motion to the landlord.
Save all receipts for proof that you served the landlord.
After you fill out the form, have the server sign and date it.
* Have the papers served before you go to the clerk’s office to file.
- File your original papers/motion with the court: Go to the Clerk’s office in the courthouse where the landlord filed your eviction action. Explain that you are filing a motion and scheduling (setting) a hearing. Give the Clerk the set of originals for filing. Ask the Clerk
- To stamp your set of copies with the “Filed” stamp.
- How to leave the judge a working copy.
* Keep your copy of your papers for your own records.
I served and filed the motion. Now what? +
Check your mail. The landlord might but does not have to file and give you a copy of their response to your motion. If the landlord does, read the response to know ahead of time what the landlord’s arguments are, if any.
How do I represent myself at the hearing? +
Before the hearing date: Practice presenting your case. You will not have much time to talk. Your presentation should be organized and short. Write a list of important points to remember. You can bring this list with you to your hearing.
Day of the hearing: Try to arrive at least 30 minutes before your hearing time. When you get to the courtroom, have a seat. Wait until the judge calls your case or name. Respond by announcing that you are there. (You will hear other lawyers and people do this if your case isn’t the first on the schedule to be announced.)
Do I let the landlord know about the hearing? +
Yes. You must deliver a copy of the motion and notice of the hearing to the landlord.
* If the landlord had an attorney in the eviction case, and it is not yet 30 days since entry of the ruling in that case OR 63 days since the filing of the last pleading in that case, follow these instructions, but for the landlord’s attorney.
How should I deliver the papers to the landlord or attorney? +
You can mail them. The Notice of Hearing has a part where you state when you mailed the papers. After you have mailed or hand-delivered the motion to the landlord, file it with the court. Keep copies for yourself.
* If you do not serve the landlord the paperwork, the court may not give you the order.
I won the hearing! Now what? +
Tenant screening companies should not disclose your eviction. They may still do so, unless you take extra steps to protect yourself. Send a copy of this order and with a letter explaining (you can use our sample letter below) to all the tenant screening companies that commonly screen eviction records for landlords. Here are some:
*This company is a part of Realpage
I lost the hearing! Now what? +
If a commissioner decided your case, you can ask a judge to revise (review) the decision. You must file a motion within 10 days of the commissioner entering the order.
If a judge decided your case, you have 30 days to appeal the order. Talk to a lawyer before taking the next step.