On average, it costs $3,500 and takes about a month to completely evict a bad tenant. Those are two very big reasons to carefully screen any potential tenants before signing a lease—including combing through their eviction history.
Why is a potential tenant’s eviction history important?
Eviction is generally a last resort for most landlords—as we mentioned above, it’s expensive and time-consuming. So if an applicant has an eviction on their record, there’s a good chance they were an exceptionally bad tenant (think extensive property damage or an outright refusal to keep paying rent). What’s more, multiple evictions can hint at a pattern of behavior. You don’t want to be the next in a string of landlords who’ve all been stuck with the same problem renter. Eviction records can help you spot those issues before it’s too late.
What will I learn from eviction history records?
Eviction history records will only include what was reported—which means it can be a nominal amount of information, like when and where they were evicted. Other records may go into more detail. Possible things you might learn about a potential tenant’s past eviction include:
- Reason for eviction
- Rent or possession judgements
- Court decision
- Court response
- Details from the landlord at the time
How should I evaluate an applicant’s eviction history?
Come up with a consistent set of criteria. What’s the maximum number of evictions a tenant can have on their record before you automatically deny them? Once you decide, use that standard with every single applicant.
Pay attention to red flags like frequently late or missed rent payments, any criminal charges leading to an eviction, and eviction proceedings that were never closed.
Keep in mind that it’s important to follow up on eviction records with the applicant, especially if there aren’t any comments from a previous landlord; it also wouldn’t hurt to call the past landlord in this situation as well. Sometimes eviction proceedings can be filed, but not completed—meaning the tenant wasn’t actually evicted—but it will still show up as an eviction on the report because it was initially filed. Plus, if the eviction case went to court and the tenant won (so the eviction isn’t valid), that shows up on an eviction history report as well. Hopefully tenants will explain that on their application, but in case they don’t, ask about it.
Where can I find a tenant’s eviction history?
Typically, eviction records pop up in multiple spots during the screening process. You’ll find it on an applicant’s credit report and potentially their background check, if there was a related criminal charge. If you purchased a rental history report from a third-party company, eviction records will show up there as well—and may also have more pertinent information about the incident, like why they were evicted or any notes from the previous landlord.
Eviction records are also public documents, so some landlords actually search local courthouse records to be thorough. It’s possible that some evictions won’t show up on screening reports, especially if they happened a long time ago. Blemishes on credit reports—like evictions—generally only stay listed for seven years. But they’re on record forever in the court system; you just have to know to look.
Do I need the tenant’s permission to get eviction records?
Since eviction records at the courthouse are public documents, you don’t need permission to pull them. But you won’t necessarily be able to access a full record of the case—often, states only give you access to a briefing. In some cases, you may have to pay a copy fee to have a record of the case mailed to you (especially if you’re searching online and can’t go to the courthouse in person).
The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice.