Is there a way to check if a tenant has been evicted in the past and that is also FREE? In CA.
Does it matter if it’s free? I come on here and that seems to be the follow up question for nearly all of the other questions posed! Does it matter if its going to cost you $40(and if it does matter just add that to the application fee) but save you money by avoiding late/nonpayment of rent, destruction of property and maitenance costs? Free is a four letter word and you often get what you pay for. These are investments we are talking about. Investing takes money up front. Just my $.02.
I do not live in the People’s Republic of California, but here in Ohio where there is still a LITTLE sanity, you can look up the eviction records on the city’s municipal court website (FOR FREE).
I only do 2 things when looking at prospective tenants…
Run a credit report
Verify income (and length of employment)
- Meet them face to face
Don’t even bother asking for their landlord’s name/number because you’ll be talking to their brother, friend, etc…The credit report should tell you about everything, even if they’re lower income…And if previous landlords got judgements for eviction/rent owed, that should show up also…A lot of times you just have to go with your gut…And you should be owning properties where it’s not so difficult to find tenants so you don’t have to take the first one that comes along…
I would strongly suggest that you start doing a criminal background check on your potential tenants. Especially in low income rentals, it is very risky to accept criminals as tenants. The last thing you need as a landlord is someone running a crackhouse. If you haven’t done a criminal screening before, you will be shocked at the number of people with serious criminal records.
Running a criminal check is a good one - haven’t thought of that. I made an offer on an apartment building in Oakland CA that has some Section 8 tenants, where the Section pays about 80% and the tenant pays the rest. What can I do to assure the balance will be paid by the tenant. And can I evict them if they don’t pay their portion?
Besides credit, and criminal background checks, is there anything else I should do in checking Section 8 type tenants?
The best thing you can do to ensure that Section 8 tenants pay is to IMMEDIATELY evict them if they don’t. That is especially critical in a multi-unit building. Remember, that 20% the tenant is paying IS YOUR PROFIT. You MUST have that if you want to make money.
How you evict them depends on your state and local laws. In Ohio, you can’t receive any rent for the month, so you either need to send the Section 8 money back or send Section 8 a letter telling them to stop payments for the next month and then evict the next month.
Besides the credit and criminal background checks, you should be checking employment (if any), the previous landlords, and references - just like you would any other tenant.
Landlords, IMHO, have to prioritize what is important to them when it comes to selecting rental applicants. There are somethings we have no control over (ie. discrimination laws, etc.). But we have the choice as to who to put into your property due to criminal, eviction history, credit, etc. With the rather liberal state rental laws in California, this would be EVEN MORE IMPORTANT to pay whatever it costs to research and verify tenants since the time it takes to get them out of your place will cost you 100x what the cost of a credit report, etc. would be.
Look at it this way. If I buy a $300K property and give someone the keys, its like buying a $300K Ferrari and giving someone the keys for 6 or 12 months. Would you do that to anyone you couldn’t trust or didn’t think had the interest of the asset that you are giving them in mind? And is it worth trying to save $500 in lost rent by just renting it to the first person who comes along rather than being more particular?
There are two main issues that we look for with prospective tenants:
- Eviction history - you get this from court judgments and national tenant databases (www.ntnonline is the main one we use for this)
- Criminal history - if the tenant has been convicted of any felony that required jail time, that’s a BIG NO for us. Minor convictions, particularly if more than 5 yrs prior, I don’t care about.
- Credit - to me this doesn’t matter at all. In fact if I have tenants that I rent to that have FICO scores of over 700, they are going to leave me and buy a place. Those with bad credit, can’t pay their phone bills, medical bills, etc. are going to still pay their rent before anything else. You just have to be ready to serve eviction notices the day the rent is late and no later. Again, if they have bad credit they know that the next time they want to move they will find a landlord who won’t accept their application and they are screwed.
The other thing we look for is serial rental movement. If I see a tenant that has moved more than 3 times in the past 3 years, that’s a red flag. That tells me that they don’t care much about where they live and its likely they won’t care about living in my place either. The same could be said for employment history. If they can’t hold a job down for more than 12 months, then they will have constant interruptions in their payment of bills, including rent and your cashflow will suffer.
You can meet them all you want, but it won’t tell you as much truth as you can get from a database, etc. I differ with my wife on this constantly. She would rent to anyone that appeared to be a ‘sick puppy’ and take pity on them. However I’m the guy who has to front up to the judge and evict them, so I look out for the exit plan when we are focusing on the entry plan for tenants. If there is any sign that they will be a problem, its an immediate no.
When I started being my own property manager, it took me 12 months to get it right. I think of it as a right of passage. I had to be kept up nights, worrying about tenants not paying their rent, evict a few, etc. until I ‘got it’. Then I realized that just like buying property, your success comes down to your upfront research and being willing to constantly adjust and learn from your own personal experiences. If you don’t do this, then you would be doomed to repeat history.
P.S. Here’s a big one… Work out the time it takes to evict the tenant, and if you have any reservations as to their stability, ask them to pay the amount of rent equal to the time it takes to evict them (and I’m talking from the 1st day of a late notice to a sheriff coming with you to turf them out), and charge them that rent as a ‘move in’ cost. Here in AZ, its about 25 days, so what I do if I have any suspicions about the tenant is to ask for security deposit, pro-rated 1st month’s rent to take them to the 1st of the month for their normal rent, and then the last month’s rent up front. If they can’t afford that, I can’t afford their risk. But if they have a good data history in place, we might waive the last month’s rent if its supported by no evictions, no criminal history, and sufficient monthly income where the rent is less than 40% of their total take home pay. This has to be supported with evidence (ie. pay stubs, etc.) of course.
As of about 6 months ago, credit reporting act changed and getting this level of detail is next to impossible unless you have a property management company with its own offices, can be checked out by the reporting agencies (read this as visited by one of their reps to verify that you are a legit company), etc. If you are doing this from home, like we are, you can’t get these sorts of credit reports anymore.
If you are getting this level of detail, can you share where please?
I think a lot of landlords will disagree strongly with this statement…First, if the phone company is ready to shut off their phone, or if the tow truck driver is backing up to their car, or the furniture company is ready to yank the furniture out of their place, the rent gets put on the back burner because they know they have more time on that…They’re not going to get evicted tomorrow, but the car/phone/furniture could be gone tomorrow if that bill’s not paid…Medical bills might be paid after the rent, but not other things…
Also, if their credit is perfect, I doubt they’re going to break a lease illegally to buy a house…I’ve had tenants in my upper class houses with 800+ credit, but they’ve always had viable reasons for renting (and I’ve never had any problem with any of them)…It’s the ones who continually have been behind on bills that you really have to guard against…It’s their lifestyle to live with eyes bigger than their wallets, not able to hold a job and get behind in bills, etc…I place a LOT of emphasis on the credit report, but this is for my houses in upper neighborhoods…
Another consideration when looking at the court records (in addition to criminal background and evictions) is to see if they have been involved in civil lawsuits. I won’t rent to anyone who has sued multiple people. There is an entire industry in this country that involve low-life scumbags and their scumbag contingency lawyers try to get rich via lawsuits (in our case, I call it the landlord lottery). If an applicant has sued more than one person, I certainly won’t rent to them. Even if they’ve only sued once, I want the details before I rent to them.
What is required is an office inspection. I had one because I need this information. What they look for is that the room that your files are kept in has a lock on the door, the file cabinet that they are stored in has a lock on it and a shreader.
The inspector comes out, takes a picture of the room and you can get any reports you want…my file cabinet and shreader are in my bedroom closet. Te bedroom has a lock on the door (the kind that opens with a coathanger)
Mike, you’re right…This is one thing that I’ve learned from this website…I’ve always had upper level rentals in Va. and never had a problem with the criminal element…Here in Buffalo I’m doing only Section 8’s, and surprisingly have all great tenants - with one possible exception - but the criminal check is a good thing to do…Thanks…
I also always call the previous landlords and I have had good luck with that. If it is their brother, cousin or whomever, they won’t be able to answer critical questions about the house…like the address, how long the tenants were there, what the rental rates were etc. All of the information should match up with the application they filled out. :deal
Rlack, I WAS one of those “landlords” one time about 25 years ago when I posed as the landlord for 3 friends who were trying to rent a house…I knew where their current rental was, because I was also lving there, and was able to answer all the questions with no problem…
I’m not sure what that really buys you. I mean we’ve done that for years with our tenants and I never get any really good information from other landlords that would affect my decision on the tenants. I tend to get better information on them from employment record checks, etc.
But one thing another investor friend of mine does which I kinda like. When they are doing the rental application, he will take it to their current home. Ideally at a time when they don’t expect him to dhow up. This does a few things - validates that they do live where they say they do, let’s him see the standard of living that they are currently (ie. cleanliness, etc.) and he can make a determination from a physical visit if these people are respecting their current place as an indicator of future behavior with his.
If you have the time to do this, its not a bad idea.
The background check service that I’ve been using, First Advantage SafeRent, recently informed me of the changes to the law regarding the accessibility of credit info - if you’re a landlord who does NOT have an out-of-the-home office. They also changed their fee structure for their searches - making it considerably more expensive.
Given the legislative changes, what companies are some of you smaller landlords (those w/o a real “office”) using for screening services?
I don’t do this for every rental, but I’ve done this two or three times myself.
Once I took an application from a “South Asian” tenant, and my mother in law insisted to my wife that these folks are bad housekeepers. Told her they’re neat “South Asians” and sloppy ones like any other nationality, the only problem I have with them is they’re argumentative culturally, and if you understand that, it’s OK.
I usaully arrange my lease signing at the rental, but this time around told them I would like to come by their home to go through the lease, with little notice, and took the wife along. Turned out the house was very tidy.
It was a couple to be married, and I met the bride’s parents who were visiting. They were so pleased meeting my wife and I, we were invited to their wedding.
From what I was told later on, we were invited because the parents thought we were just extra thoughful and respectful landlords, someone who ran the extra mile to deliver extra service. Spying on them was the last thing on their minds. They were used to "rude landlords, and someone “walking a lease” over, and explaining it was to say the least, a kind gesture.