Since 2011, the Twin Cities rental market maintained a near record-low rental vacancy rate for renters across all incomes. The statistics are more troubling when considering the availability of affordable housing for those with low incomes. This means that the rental housing market is extremely competitive. Background checks have become a tool for landlords to sort through the piles of applications for each opening. Any blemish on a person’s rental history can result in the landlord not considering the application and moving on to the next applicant. Eviction records, even records of dismissed cases, create problems for people seeking rental housing.
Many landlords use tenant screening companies to run reports on prospective tenants. However, Housing Court records are also easily available online at the Minnesota Courts’ website, so even the casual researcher can quickly run a record search. The courts can retain online records of cases indefinitely, while consumer reporting agencies must remove evictions from their reports after seven years. Facing difficulties passing background checks, tenants often turn to lawyers for help cleaning up their prior ‘UDs.’ Their option is to seek expungement, the court-ordered sealing of the records. Unfortunately, while there are many people who need the relief, there are strict limitations on its availability. This Tip will give a brief overview of the applicable law and explain how to make quality referrals for clients seeking pro bono assistance.
 For additional information and statistics, view reports from the Minnesota Housing Partnership online: http://www.mhponline.org/publications.
 15 U.S.C. § 1681c.
 ‘UD’ is a term clients commonly use, meaning an eviction. It is shorthand for unlawful detainer, the cause of action for eviction prior to creation of the eviction action in the late 1990s.