Dealing with evictions can be challenging and time-consuming. In fact, landlords would want to avoid them altogether. While this may not be possible, there are ways to reduce your chances of having to deal with this. How, you might ask? Well, you can obtain eviction records and other useful information during the tenant screening process.
While you might not believe this is beneficial initially, historical data has proven extremely useful. Why? Because history has a habit of repeating itself. Therefore, if a prospective renter was evicted once, they could very well repeat the same behavior that led to their previous eviction.
Overall, landlords want to ensure that trustworthy people are occupying their property. The best way to do this is by covering all your bases and assessing all relevant information.
Why Should You Conduct an Eviction Search?
Dealing with tenants who don't pay rent, cause serious damage to your property, or take part in illegal activities is extremely stressful. If any of the above applies to your tenant, you'll have a strong case for eviction; however, this might take several weeks or months.
By obtaining a potential tenant's eviction record and the reason for the eviction, you'll be able to reject their application and avoid dealing with the above-mentioned problems. However, keep in mind that an eviction record might not cover every detail regarding the eviction - for example, perhaps the tenant failed to make payments because they lost their job. Therefore, it would also be beneficial to talk to the prospective tenant before rejecting their application.
All in all, an eviction search is the best place to start. It will help guide you in the right direction and determine the next steps for the rental process.
What's Included in an Eviction Report
Eviction records contain basic information regarding the filings of the case. Most reports will include the following information:
- The tenant's full name
- The property owner' or plaintiff's address
- The date the eviction was filed
- The property’s address
- The location of the court in which the eviction was filed
- The outcome of the eviction proceedings
How to Conduct an Eviction Search
A property owner can use one of the following methods to look up a potential tenant's eviction history:
Use Court Records
This is the simplest, most direct, and most comprehensive way to discover if a prospective tenant has an eviction record. You will have to access relevant public records. Firstly keep in mind that there are different courthouses depending on the area, county, and state. You will have to check the specific state or county's court records. The National Center for State Courts has a user-friendly system to use if you're struggling to find the correct site to search on.
Once you've found the proper state website, search for the prospective tenant's name. Make sure you check more than the name provided on the application - by conducting a thorough search, you'll know for sure whether they have a past eviction record or not.
Other names you can check during your search include:
- Birth name
- Alternate names
- Name before or after marriage or divorce
- Names with or without initials
Middle names aren't always presented on court documents. Therefore, if you're going to include the middle name, only use the first letter of it. If you're aware of the case number, you could also search for this, as this is the most efficient way.
Once you've searched the name, you'll be able to get access to any available records. It's important to note that most states do not provide full access to the case but rather a brief summary. Make sure to read all the provided information to find out whether the person is a bad tenant. Wrongful evictions take place from time to time; therefore, you need to get a thorough understanding of the case to give the person a fair chance.
If you're unable to view the record online, contact the clerk's office of the court hearing. They will advise you on how to get a copy of the case. In many cases, you might have to pay a copy fee to get the record mailed to you.
Hire a Third-party Service
There are many services available if you're struggling to find eviction reports by yourself. Third-party services will assist in screening potential tenants, which includes conducting eviction searches, credit checks where necessary, and background checks. These services can also do this search on a national basis.
Finding the right clerk's office, checking all possible names, and collecting all the necessary information can be a time-consuming and challenging task, particularly if the prospective tenant has lived in various states during their life. This is why a third-party service is such a valuable tool. They will help you shorten your list of potential residents so that you can find the perfect tenant for you and your property.
Use Tenant References
Lastly, you can ask potential renters for references from their previous landlords. While this is probably the least effective method out of the three, it can give you a good foundation in terms of finding out that person's previous rental behavior.
A tenant reference is useful when it comes to "cash for keys" scenarios - which is something you won't find in court documents. What is a "cash for keys" situation? This is when the landlord gives the tenant money in exchange for them leaving the property. There is no formal eviction process involved. Why would a landlord do this, you might ask? Perhaps the landlord did not have a strong enough case or could not afford court costs and legal fees. There are many valid reasons for not going to court, which is why it could still be helpful to look into this.
Important Legal Considerations
When looking at court records, you might come across the terms "civil new filing," "judgments," or "restitution of premises." It's important to understand these terms to obtain a better understanding of the final outcome of the case.
If the record says "Civil New Filing," it means the case was either dismissed or canceled. Proceedings could be dismissed or canceled for many reasons, such as the property manager or landlord making an agreement with the tenant outside of court or the tenant paying any outstanding rent.
However, when dealing with a case that says "Judgment," it means the court filed in favor of the landlord. Therefore, the court would've ordered the renter to pay the property owner for any damage caused to the property or any outstanding rent. Sometimes you might be faced with a default judgment. This occurs when the tenants fail to respond to the eviction summons or appear in court.
As a landlord, the outcome you would want to achieve is a "Restitution of Premises." This occurs when the judge orders that the tenant must be removed from the premises and the landlord regains full ownership. The judge will give the tenant a time frame in which they must vacate the premises.
Make sure to familiarize yourself with the relevant eviction laws for your state before starting the process.
Crucial Factors to Take Note of
If you're planning on conducting your own search, there are a few things you need to be wary of. Firstly, is where you receive the records from. If you're using a service that offers automatically generates reports, you need to make sure the records belong to the person you're screening and that you can legally use the record if you undergo the adverse action process and want to deny the potential renter.
Generally, an eviction record will include the applicant's first and last name as well as the property's address. Thus, you need to make sure the tenant in question was the only person who lived at that address with that name to ensure you have an accurate eviction record. This is vital as many people have common names.
Another important factor to take note of is that you can only use records that have been reported in the past seven years. Anything older than this will not be a valid reason to deny an applicant.
Always be Careful and Wise when Choosing Tenants
As a landlord, renting out your property is about much more than simply finding someone to live in your property. You need to find a tenant who will look after the unit and with who you can have a good relationship with. This is why conducting an eviction search is crucial.
Failure to do so could result in you putting your property, home, or business at risk. However, you also need to make sure all the information obtained corroborates the research on the potential tenant.
When checking for someone's history of evictions, make sure to search the correct courthouse records, consider all possible names or nicknames, and hire help if you're struggling or need more information.
You'll be able to make smarter choices about who lives in your rental properties by taking the time to research the person's eviction past. Once you've checked eviction records and credit scores and done a background check, you'll be able to make a wise choice.
How Soon Does an Eviction Show Up?
In general, an eviction will show up 30 to 60 days after the eviction takes place. The exact amount of time it takes will differ depending on the court system, the type of screening services, and the filing agencies.
Are Evictions Public Record?
Yes, these will be added to the public record after it has been filed with the court system. However, not all records will have the same details. The extent of information will differ depending on the state. The record may also appear in criminal background checks depending on the case's final judgment.
However, as of July 2017, eviction records don't appear in credit reports. This is why most landlords do a separate eviction and credit check.
Do Evictions Show Up on Background Checks?
Background checks don't have a specific definition. In most cases, a landlord will do an eviction history search and a criminal background check. Unless an associated misdemeanor or charge had to be settled in civil court, an eviction will not appear on a criminal background check. Dismissed eviction checks will also not appear on a background check. Evictions will appear in an eviction history check for seven years.