Part of the tenant screening process for any landlord must include an eviction search. Tenants that have past evictions may not be a true reflection of their potential value in a lease, but it does indicate that they are a high-risk tenant that may not be right for you. Eviction records are considered part of the open public record, so these red flags are pretty easy to spot. The easiest way to check for evictions is to have a credit check as part of the tenant screening process. Evictions are typically on a credit report and you’ll also get to see a brief overview of a tenant’s financial situation at the same time. You’ll need written consent to receive this report, so don’t just run the credit check because you could find yourself at risk for litigation, fines, or both if you do. Here are some other ways that you can check for evictions as well.
1. Obtain Information About Previous Residences.
During the tenant screening process, it is not uncommon to ask for up to 3-5 years of previous addresses. This gives you two pieces of good information: how stable the household structure is and information to contact a previous landlord. To speak with the landlord, however, you’ll need written authorization that can be sent via email or fax to get the information that is needed.
2. Contact the County Court of a Previous Address.
If you don’t get authorization to speak with a former landlord, then take advantage of the open public records. Check the eviction records for that county. If a tenant was ordered out of a residence, then a writ of possession will be on file for the property in question. Unless it is a rural county, there’s a good chance that this information can be found online.
3. Look for Judgments on a Tenant’s Records.
When you pull the credit file for a tenant, you may not see an eviction in place. What you may see in its place is a judgment from a lawsuit that was initiated by one of the previous landlords of that potential tenant instead. You may need to pull credit reports from all 3 major credit reporting agencies in the US to verify judgment records.
4. Request a Tenant Screening Report.
A number of professional agencies provide complete tenant screening reports based on the personal information an applicant provides you. In return for a service fee, which can often be charged to the applicant, the organization creating the report will obtain a criminal history, credit information, and a complete examination of any public records that will give you an idea of how risky a tenant may be.
5. Not Every Eviction is Something That a Landlord May Initiate.
There are some jurisdictions that allow law enforcement officials to initiate an eviction based on the arrest of a renter for a drug charge or other illegal activity. Landlords in this situation are generally given 30 days to evict the tenant on their own, but law enforcement will complete the eviction at the end of 30 days if the landlord has not done so.
6. It is Important to Remember That Not Every Eviction Attempt Winds Up in an Actual Court-Ordered Eviction.
When a landlord gives their tenant a notice to pay or quit, that means a tenant has the option to actually quit. That means they must move out of the rental property by a certain date. This action is considered to be an eviction, but it is not a court-ordered eviction. The same is true for tenants who might move out by a notice date for other lease violations, such as having a pet that is not allowed. This is why it is important to check all references and records and not just rely on public information or references only.
7. Evictions on a Credit Report Can be Disputed.
It is also important to realize as a potential landlord that credit-based eviction information may be placed there in error. A potential tenant may not have been evicted, but a previous landlord may not have stopped a court proceeding and received a default judgment because notice wasn’t given as indicated. It’s unlikely, but it does happen. If an application is in the process of disputing an inaccurate eviction report on their credit, then this should be combined with other screening information to render an empowered decision. Screening for a past eviction is an important part of any tenant application process. If you are not doing this already, then follow these steps to begin locate eviction information now so that you can limit your risks.