An eviction is arguably the most critical determinant a landlord can have in screening a prospective renter. While not always the case, an eviction can be a very big red flag that a potential tenant may present risks that should be examined.
Our country’s volatile economic climate and the national housing crisis are not limited homeowners facing foreclosure. Tenant eviction rates have also increased. For the past few years, the National Sheriff’s Association has reported a substantial jump in the number of rental evictions by law enforcement officials.
A lot of landlords assume evictions will automatically show up on prospective tenants’ credit and/or background reports. But this is erroneous. This information often doesn’t appear on these documents. Most rental applications include a space for interested renters to report prior evictions, but it’s rare for anyone to willingly admit this. Past evictions obviously are an obstacle to renting. Here’s why this specific warning sign might allude property owners:
They Only Reviewed One Report
Just checking out a credit report generally won’t work. Credit agency Experian says that its reports will not show if someone has been evicted from a property.
So failing to look at a background check in addition to the credit report will not give you a full picture of your prospective tenant. Plus credit reporting is not always 100-percent accurate. Credit reporting bureaus look at different information sources, and some may access different information than others.
The Type of Eviction Was Not the Kind Typically Reported
The nature of the eviction also dictates whether it shows up on your prospective tenant’s credit report at all.
If the previous landlord filed for an order of possession, but was not seeking any monetary damages associated with the eviction suit, it will not appear on the credit report. If there’s a monetary judgment, it appears in the public record section of the report. But estimates show that 75 percent of eviction filings never result in a money judgment. That is a lot of potential problem tenants flying under the radar.
A background check would have information on an eviction case without a monetary judgement. However, court clerks in smaller jurisdictions may not have the resources to post to the information quickly. If the court doesn’t get around to handling the paperwork or it slips through the cracks, you would have to physically go to the courthouse to find proof of eviction.
The Eviction Was Very Recent
It takes time for a public record or judgment to be logged and sent to reporting agencies. During this period, the prospective renter may try to get a new lease before the eviction shows up on reports. The specific time period could take as long as a few months, depending on the courthouse, thus leaving plenty of time for the renter to find another place to live without the eviction popping up. Be sure to check with the specific jurisdiction’s court system to see if there are any “pending” landlord complaints or eviction filings.
The Prospective Tenant Provided a False Identity
Renters with something to hide might be so bold as to give you false information, such as a bogus Social Security Number – “borrowed” from a family member or someone else. You can minimize the risk of this by double checking all information. Does the address on the prospective tenant’s photo ID match the previous addresses listed on his or her credit report? Do the birth dates listed on reports match the other identification provided? Information discrepancies could indicate identity theft.
The Current Landlord Wants Them Out
Calling a current landlord might help alleviate some of your worries. However, you might not get a 100-percent truthful answer from a current landlord — especially if your prospective renter is a problem tenant and said landlord wants them out. They might give positive feedback when in fact the tenant might have been evicted. Ultimately, calling the previous two landlords is a better strategy.
Not all renters with past evictions end up being bad tenants, but you want the choice to make that decision for yourself. Understanding these circumstances can help you better investigate a tenant’s history and make an educated decision.