Yes, evictions become part of the public record once the landlord files an official complaint with the court system. Just because the tenant was late on rent or violated the lease terms does not mean it's automatically a matter of public record. However once the landlord decides to proceed with formal eviction proceedings and notifies the court, it will appear in the public record.
What information is available on the circumstances of the eviction will depend on the state and county you live in. But once the case is brought before a judge, it will show up in the public records in some fashion.
It usually takes 30-60 days for an eviction to appear on your public record. However, it depends on how backed up the court system is and how quickly the filing agencies can process the data. It also depends on the type of software you use to search the public records database. So, it likely won't show up the same day that the paperwork is filed. But you can expect it to appear within the next 90 days of the original complaint.
- Find the Court System Database
- Search the Tenant's Name
- Pull up their Records
- Use a Third-Party Service
1. Find the court system database
You can find everything you need to know about a past eviction by checking the court records in the county where the eviction took place. If you know the previous addresses where the tenant lived, this will be an easier task, but if they are relocating from a different part of the country, it may be more difficult. The easiest solution is to start by searching court records at the state level and see if anything comes up. You can use this resource to search for these state court websites, and you can even check all 50 if you want to be as thorough as possible.
2. Search the tenant's name
Once you've located the court database for your state, you'll want to search the tenant's name to find any eviction records. You may want to check a few different variations of their name to make sure you don't miss anything. For instance, if the tenant's legal name is John but goes by Jack, try searching both names. Also, try including their middle name or initial, or consider whether they've changed their name after getting married or for any other reason. Unfortunately, court record databases aren't always the most user-friendly, so you may have to try a few different combinations to ensure you're not missing anything important.
3. Pull up their records
If you find an eviction case on the tenant's file, make sure to read it thoroughly. How much information is publicly available will depend on the court system. But you should have access to a general summary of the eviction proceedings. Having an eviction case on their record is not necessarily a reason to reject a tenant outright. It's possible that the landlord was actually at fault, or it was a misunderstanding that was later settled in court. But any time eviction proceedings are brought against a tenant, it will turn up on their record, which is why it's important to review the facts before making a decision one way or the other.
4. Use a third-party service (optional)
If you're having trouble locating eviction records on your own or you don't have the time or energy to search through several court databases, you can also hire a third-party service to screen tenants on your behalf. They will likely charge a fee, and some services are more reliable than others. But there are plenty of reputable services and software out there that can help you accurately screen tenants. Plus, it's often less expensive to pay the fee than to approve a bad tenant and have to evict them.
Although it can be tedious, searching the public records for evictions isn't as difficult as you might think. Taking the time to search the court databases or paying a service to screen tenants for you can save you from potentially renting to someone with a bad track record of paying rent on time. While some evictions may be a misunderstanding, in most instances, it's a sign that you should look for another qualified applicant.