Real Estate Articles

Fundamental Background Check Technique | By: Jeffery Watson

In a previous article, I told you about being in court representing a relatively new landlord evicting a problem tenant. How did I know they were a problem tenant? When I agreed to represent the landlord, one of the first things my staff did was a quick online check of the local court dockets. With a little typing of names and the click of a few buttons, we could see the rather lengthy legal history these particular tenants had. Five to ten minutes of that type of quick research would have saved my new clients numerous hours of difficulty in dealing with these tenants.

I recognize that even in this modern era, some local courts do not have all their records online; however, there is this wonderful invention called the telephone. If you have a fully-completed rental application in front of you that gives you the applicant’s name, date of birth and Social Security number, a quick phone call to the court and conversation with a records clerk can reveal whether there are or have been any cases against that person, particularly anything housing related. A few minutes of such research can help you avoid renting to problem tenants.

In order to do this research effectively, you need to have a rock-solid rental application as part of your real estate investing playbook, and ALL tenants must complete the application. You must also have a consistent screening and vetting process which you put ALL tenants through. In our office, we always do the background checks with the local courts first because that is the quickest way to eliminate many problematic applicants.

If our research with the local courts reveals cases of a nature indicating that the prospective tenant could be problematic, we then notify them that their application has been declined due to the results of a public records search with XYZ Court.

You can minimize the chance of renting to problematic tenants by doing some simple research with local housing courts. The few minutes it takes to do this can save you hours of hassle and hundreds or even thousands of dollars later. Establish your screening process as part of your real estate investing playbook, and then consistently follow that process for every prospective tenant.

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