Investigating a potential tenant's eviction history is an important part of the rental process. Having this information, together with proper documentation of income, will help a landlord determine if someone will make an ideal tenant. In an ideal world, landlords would likely prefer to have stable tenants and avoid the expenses associated with evicting a tenant. Repeated evictions, or attempts to evict, on a potential tenant's record can raise serious concerns about stability.
Investigate an Eviction History
There are several legal ways to evaluate a potential tenant's history in New York State. These include obtaining an eviction report, requesting references from past landlords and researching court records.
The first step in properly evaluating a potential tenant's eviction history is to first obtain their permission to conduct an investigation. Be sure to include a broad consent form with the rental application that includes permission to speak to previous landlords. Appropriate consent forms that comply with New York State laws can be found on line.
Prospective tenants should be required to provide contact information for previous landlords going back several years. Once the prospective landlord has this information, she should contact the previous landlords and specifically ask if they have ever evicted the potential tenant or even started an eviction process. The landlord should not rely only on the word of the previous landlords, but should confirm the truth by searching the appropriate court records.
Read More: Eviction Laws in New York State
Obtain and Evaluate Eviction Reports
Much like credit bureaus, national agencies collect information on rental histories in most states, including New York. Accordingly, these organizations will provide rental history for any potential tenant for a fee. This fee can be included as part of the renter's application fee, and the report will show if and when the prospective tenant had been evicted. A landlord can find such agencies by doing an online search for a reputable agency.
In limited circumstances, where a court has ordered an eviction and awarded the previous landlord monetary compensation, that judgment may be included in a credit report. For this reason, it is important to order a credit report for a prospective tenant. Again, the cost for a credit report can be included in the tenant's application fee. A landlord can obtain a credit report from one of the major credit reporting bureaus, including TransUnion, Equifax and Experian.
An additional benefit for the landlord of obtaining a broad report from a national organization or credit bureau is gaining a full picture of the prospective tenant's rental history. The information will not be limited to New York State. Given the serious nature of renting a property, this is an added benefit of using a report generated by a national agency.
Search Court Records
The New York State Unified Court System provides an additional resource to properly investigate a prospective tenant's rental history. Perhaps the simplest way to access these records is to go directly to the website, locate the counties where the prospective tenant has lived and enter their information. You will be searching through the civil database and not the criminal database. Alternatively, you may call the county clerk for each county and ask the court for eviction information on the prospective tenant.
If you are performing the online search yourself, it is important to remember that the information you need will be found in the civil docket and not the criminal docket.
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