A tenant eviction check aims to show if a tenant has been evicted at any point in the last 7 years. Given that the true cost of an eviction (including lost rent) averages close to $5,000, predicting for the likelihood of a future eviction is one of the most important parts of the tenant screening process.
Table of Contents:
- Purpose – why an eviction check is important when screening tenants.
- How to Run an Eviction Check – all steps and service options for obtaining reports.
- Eviction Report Details – what’s included in an eviction history lookup.
- Filings vs Judgments – a critical distinction to understand about eviction records.
- Completeness & Accuracy – what info is possibly missing or inaccurate on a report.
The Purpose of a Tenant Eviction Check
If a tenant has been evicted before, it’s reasonable to expect that they might be evicted again. This is because the first eviction is often the scariest, and tenants who have gone through it may find that it’s not a big ordeal for them.
Because of this, it’s important to check eviction records on all tenants. Evictions are costly and time-consuming and often result in a loss of income on the part of the landlord. Tenants who are already being evicted may find that it’s not reasonable for them to pay rent, and cases can drag out for 4 weeks or longer.
For a more detailed breakdown on the true cost of an eviction, see this analysis by Snappt.
How to Run a Tenant Eviction Check
Here are the steps involved in running a tenant eviction check.
- Collect Tenant Information – the application form should collect everything a tenant eviction check service would need to run a report, such as the tenant’s full name, date of birth and recent addresses. Some eviction check services are able to locate eviction records with quite limited information.
- Choose an Eviction Check Service – out of the services we’ve reviewed, we recommend CoreLogic’s MyRental service, which includes an Eviction History report in its broader tenant screening offerings.
- Run the Report – submit the request with the eviction check service and wait for the results to come back.
How Long Does it Take to Run an Eviction Check?
A tenant eviction check usually takes no more than a few minutes. This is because there is no input needed from the tenant, past landlords or other individuals that can heavily slow down the process. Details about past evictions are collected ahead of time from court records across numerous local jurisdictions.
Parts of a Tenant Eviction Check
Eviction reports may contain a variety of information and various levels of detail. Here are some of the sections that may show up in a tenant eviction check.
The Defendant, also referred to as the Respondent, is the tenant in this situation. This will include information like their full name, the address they were evicted from, and their SSN (though this is very rare, as eviction cases are often not filed with an SSN attached).
This can help the landlord identify that the case belongs to the tenant, especially considering that most eviction information can be rather ambiguous in this regard. A starting point would be to compare the tenant’s previous addresses to the address where the eviction took place; if there is no record that they ever lived there (or ever even lived in that area), it can be a red flag.
The Plaintiff will be the landlord or the property that the tenant was evicted from. Information in this section may include the name of the property or landlord, the phone number for that business, and the address of the business office where that company operates. Again, the address information here can be checked against the address history from the tenant to make sure that the records belong to the tenant applying for your property.
This section is where some eviction reports fall flat. Though not all of this information is usually present on a single record, there is a possibility that the landlord will receive the following information about the eviction case.
- Case number
- Case type
- Description (includes the type of eviction)
- Claim amount
- Court where the eviction is tried
- County where the eviction is carried out
- File dates and resolution dates.
Any of this information may be used to find more information about the eviction. Particularly recognizing which county and court dealt with the case. Some types of evictions are public record, so a simple search of public record databases available online can verify the case and provide more information.
The claim amount is also important, as it highlights exactly how much rent the tenant was behind, or how much property damage that they caused. The higher the number, the more alarming the eviction case should be.
Finally, most eviction records will include judgment information. This can include whether the case was completed as tried, or if the type of eviction changed over the course of the lawsuit (which is not uncommon). Here, you’ll also find the judgment amount if there was a monetary judgment. How it compares to the claim amount is important, because this is the amount that the judge found that the tenant actually owed to the landlord.
Filings vs Judgments
Some eviction reports will include all evictions that have been filed against a certain tenant, but not necessarily come to a judgment. Some, on the other hand, only include evictions that have resulted in a monetary judgment in favor of the landlord.
Having access to the filings made against a tenant can be useful, but it can also be misleading. If an eviction was only filed and never followed through, it may mean that there was a misunderstanding, that the tenant was a few days late on their rent, or that the situation was resolved so that it didn’t need to be followed through. However, none of this information is apparent just from looking at the filed eviction data. It can be more harmful than helpful.
On the other hand, full judgments that result in a monetary or other judgment are extremely useful. There’s not any more detail, but there is enough to assume that the tenant was in the wrong – they violated their lease, or failed to pay the rent. Either way, it doesn’t look good for a tenant who is looking to rent again.
Make sure that you know which type of eviction records the screening company will send and check them carefully to find out if it was a justified eviction, or if it was simply a misunderstanding.
Completeness & Accuracy of Eviction Information
Unfortunately, eviction reports may not always be accurate. Even the most detailed eviction information often does not include a social security number for the tenant, so matching the record to the person who is applying to rent the property can be difficult.
Since eviction records are often based on name and address information rather than the SSN, tenants with common names may find that there is eviction records present for them when they have never been evicted. It’s important to gather as much information about the eviction as possible, including asking the tenant outright if the record belongs to them (though this, too, is often risky).
Though evictions are some of the most important information to consider when choosing a tenant, it can also lead to a lot of misunderstandings, especially since the information is not always complete or often attributed to the wrong tenant. If information is returned, it’s critical that the landlord view it objectively and verifies (through credit reports and application information) that the tenant lived at the address the report was filed for.
For further reading, checkout the below resources:
- Manual Eviction Record Lookup – if you’re wondering how eviction case information is collated from public court records, this guide outlines the manual process for doing so.
- Expunging an Eviction Case – while possible, it is difficult for a tenant to expunge an eviction case from their record. This cheat sheet from the Minnesota Judicial Branch’s website outlines the process.