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How to Look Up Evictions (and Avert a Disastrous Rental)

Is your latest applicant a dream tenant… or a hidden nightmare?

Few things disrupt rental owners' monthly cash flow faster than problem tenants. Despite the most rigorous screening, sometimes bad apples slip through, stopping rent payments and damaging property.

By the time eviction proceedings start, you will have likely lost thousands in unpaid rent, legal fees, and repairs. An eviction judgment can follow tenants for years, making it difficult for you to rent out that property again.

This post walks you through one of the best ways to avoid evictions: looking up past evictions for your applicants. We’ll cover why you should look into past evictions and then discuss four methods for how to look up evictions to make sure you find the best tenants for your rental property. 

How To Look Up Evictions: And Why 

Protecting your rental property and ensuring a steady cash flow starts with thorough tenant screening. One crucial aspect of this process is looking up eviction records for your applicants. Eviction checks provide invaluable insights into a prospective tenant's rental history, helping you assess the risks they might pose to your property and finances.

By examining an applicant's eviction records, you can gauge how likely they are to pay rent on time, follow lease terms, and take care of your property. A history of frequent evictions may indicate they’re not financially stable. It might also reveal a pattern of problematic behavior that could lead to property damage, legal issues, or disturbances that could affect your other tenants and property neighbors.

As a landlord, you are responsible for protecting your investment, ensuring your tenants' well-being, and maintaining a positive reputation within the community. Renting to tenants with a history of evictions can jeopardize these goals, leading to lost income, costly repairs, and other complications every property manager wants to avoid.

Knowing how to look up evictions effectively minimizes these risks and helps you make informed decisions. In the following sections, we'll explore four methods you can use to investigate an applicant's eviction history, empowering you to select reliable tenants and safeguard your rental property's long-term success.

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1. Search Court Records

Searching court records is one of the most effective ways to uncover potential tenants' eviction histories. This search will reveal any eviction cases associated with that person, providing valuable insights into their rental background.

When reviewing the search results, look for a summary of each case to understand the circumstances surrounding the eviction. Remember, an eviction doesn't always indicate a bad tenant. There might be outside circumstances — like a landlord failing to maintain the property or personal hardships faced by the tenant — that contributed to the eviction. 

However, if you notice a pattern of multiple evictions or particularly concerning behavior, it may be wise to discuss the situation with the applicant to better understand their story and make an informed decision about renting to them.

You can search court records using a few different processes:

1. Online Case Search

Many states offer online court case searches, helping you quickly and easily find eviction records. To begin, visit your state's court website or the website for the court in the same city or county as your rental unit. Enter the full legal name of the tenant, landlord, property management company, or case number in the appropriate search fields to see results.

Some states, like Missouri, provide detailed case information online for free. This might include the date of the eviction order, any money the tenant owes, and whether or not the debt has been paid. Use these resources to gather as much information as possible about the applicant's eviction history.

2. In-Person Case Search

If your state or county doesn't provide online court records, you can conduct an in-person case search at the courthouse. This search lets you view or copy the entire case file, including all documents and court orders related to the eviction.

To access the information, ask to view or copy the case file at the courthouse. Be prepared; you may need to pay a fee to access these records. You'll need to provide the name of at least one party involved or the case number to locate the relevant records.

By combining online and in-person court record searches, you can build a thorough understanding of an applicant's eviction history and make well-informed decisions to protect your rental property and ensure a stable, reliable tenancy.

2. Work with a Tenant Screening Service

Working with a tenant screening service can be a game-changer when it comes to how to look up evictions. These companies specialize in tenant screening and provide comprehensive eviction reports, saving you time and effort. 

Intellirent, for example, offers robust tenant screening options and a customizable online application process. Bundling a background check and eviction report streamlines your screening process and offers a holistic view of your applicant's rental history in one convenient portal.

Tenant screening services are also useful for screening out-of-state tenants. They have the expertise and resources to track down eviction records across state lines, which can be a complicated process. Using their services ensures you have access to the information you need to make informed decisions.

In addition to eviction reports, these services often provide a range of other screening tools, such as credit checks, criminal background checks, and employment verification. By leveraging these comprehensive screening options, you can build a well-rounded understanding of your applicant's suitability as a tenant.

Related Read: 7 Reasons To Add Intellirent to Your Leasing Software Toolkit

3. Use Tenant References 

Tenant references are another valuable tool for uncovering eviction histories during the tenant verification process. Ask the applicant for a list of previous landlord references, including names, contact information, and tenancy dates, so you can contact them for a reference. 

Be sure to verify the legitimacy of the references before contacting them. With today’s technology, it’s easy to fake references or have friends or family stand in for real landlords, providing a dishonest account of the tenant’s history.

Once you’ve validated that you’re really talking to a past landlord, ask them about the tenant's:

  1. Rent payment consistency
  2. Past-due rent or eviction proceedings
  3. Property maintenance
  4. Complaints from neighbors or other tenants
  5. Likelihood of the landlord renting to the tenant again

If the applicant has multiple past tenancies, speak to multiple landlords to identify any red flags or patterns of bad behavior. Some landlords may hesitate to provide damaging information, so read between the lines and look for hesitation or reluctance in their responses. 

4. Ask The Tenant’s Prior Landlord

Gather information from potential tenants' prior landlords — beyond those they listed as references — to get a complete picture of their rental history beyond evictions. Ask for previous evictions and their reasons on the rental application.

When you contact prior landlords, even if the tenant claims no evictions, ask about:

  1. Rent payment consistency
  2. Property damage or lease violations
  3. Eviction proceedings initiated
  4. Willingness to rent to the tenant again

Getting this information from multiple prior landlords helps identify bad behavior patterns or potential problems. However, eviction history should not be the sole determinant of a tenant's suitability. Use this information alongside other screening tools for a well-rounded assessment.

Note: Several states and localities have laws governing the contact of prior landlords, so be sure to review your jurisdictions’ regulations before doing so.

How To Look Up Evictions: The Easy Way 

Looking up past evictions is crucial for avoiding poor-fit tenants, but the process can be stressful and time-consuming. Intellirent offers a solution that simplifies tenant screenings, including credit checks, background checks, and eviction record searches.

With Intellirent, you can access all the essential information in one convenient platform, saving you time and effort. Say goodbye to navigating multiple court websites or spending hours on the phone with previous landlords.

Create a free account and post your first listing with Intellirent today to experience how our user-friendly interface and powerful screening tools can streamline your leasing and tenant screening processes.

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