Background checks

26 Replies

Most counties have public back ground checks, I think.  Meaning, I can type your name in a counties database and if you have been arrested before I can if you have been arrested and for what.   I know there are background services out there for a small fee, but like my tenants, I want everything too for free.  I was wondering if there is a local one for cook county, Illinois?  I'm hoping there is one out there that I can not find.  I know will county has one.  I know there is also one for cook county jail, telling me if someone is currently in there, which I am not looking for because you're not going to rent my place if your in jail at the moment.  Although I did utilize the jail database to find a tenant and go ask him what his plan was for paying rent lol... For some reason, I think you need to go to a local court and look up people in their database.  

Keywords: Illinois, Cook County, Chicago, Property Management, Background Checks, Screening

That wasn't helpful.  Some or maybe most of my tenants don't have computers.  They use their IPHONE 6 plus for a computer.  I prescreen my tenants before I even set up a showing.  So its actually saving time.  

I use  https://www.tenantbackgroundsearch.com/ The have 3 different plans ranging from $20 - $30.  I charge $40 for the background check for 2 people.  The covers one person and some of the other persons background check.  I eat the cost of the other one.  This is the cost of doing business. Sometimes you have to spend money to make money.

Originally posted by @Edward Mccracken :

Most counties have public back ground checks, I think.  Meaning, I can type your name in a counties database and if you have been arrested before I can if you have been arrested and for what.   I know there are background services out there for a small fee, but like my tenants, I want everything too for free.  I was wondering if there is a local one for cook county, Illinois?  I'm hoping there is one out there that I can not find.  I know will county has one.  I know there is also one for cook county jail, telling me if someone is currently in there, which I am not looking for because you're not going to rent my place if your in jail at the moment.  Although I did utilize the jail database to find a tenant and go ask him what his plan was for paying rent lol... For some reason, I think you need to go to a local court and look up people in their database.  

Keywords: Illinois, Cook County, Chicago, Property Management, Background Checks, Screening

 Hello Edward,

You make a great point. Free is always great! Sadly, though, free does not always mean great. I would recommend taking the dive and signing up for an online service provider. My first thought is, if you are checking locally you might miss something. 

If someone commits a crime and then moves to Cook County, lives there for 10 years, then applies for a home, you might not ever notice their background. People move around a lot these days and one or two county records will not be enough to find out. You'll want to use a service that can do background checks on a national level. Otherwise you risk leasing your place out to someone who got by on your search.

@Edward Mccracken -- 

  • Yes, each county will have a public record database you can search. Here is the link for your county.
  • However, the tenant may be convicted in another county and that won't show up on the records. That's the real reason to pay for the background check (consolidates nationwide). It will also check the sex offender list, which I'm not 100% certain shows up in the county records. (Maybe someone else can confirm?)
  • There are mobile friendly background check services for those folks with iPhone 6s.
Originally posted by @Dana Dunford :

@Edward Mccracken -- 

  • Yes, each county will have a public record database you can search. Here is the link for your county.
  • However, the tenant may be convicted in another county and that won't show up on the records. That's the real reason to pay for the background check (consolidates nationwide). It will also check the sex offender list, which I'm not 100% certain shows up in the county records. (Maybe someone else can confirm?)
  • There are mobile friendly background check services for those folks with iPhone 6s.

I agree with Dana. A county by county search might take up a lot of your time. One system that does a national search would benefit you greatly.

Many times evictions won't show up in credit records. 

Updated over 5 years ago

I was reading last night how a eviction report only fetches 60% of the real evictions. This is vendor specific. The author suggested that two eviction reports from different vendors were required to solve this problem.

Ed,
I have to back Elizabeth on that as well. If your prospect cannot afford $35 fee, what makes you think they will be able to manage their money and afford your $600+ rent.

I use mysmartmove.com link should be on BP as they are a sponsor here, which gets me criminal record check, prior eviction check, bankruptcy check and credit report.

On top of that I don't handle tenants info (for which you have to be accountable by law).

Also it allows me to set rent cost and tenant requirements for each property and email tenants with link to apply and pay online.
I can make a sound decision within 5 minutes of the tenant completing the application.

I get that you want free, but free takes time out of your busy day and family. Also it's not accurate and you cannot get credit report on someone else for free anyway.

The clerk website is great for free records which you can look up by last name, but people get married, change names or 10 people can be under same first and last name - you can spin your wheels and not get ahead.

Best Wishes

Dan

Hi @Edward Mccracken . Like you, I like free things, a lot, but I feel tenant screening is the wrong place to get that. Getting the right tenants in your rentals is what helps your investment make you money. We use Fabco for background checks and have for years. http://fabcogroup.com/screenings/. As you'll see in the link they do, among a lot of other things, a national criminal report that includes county muni and common pleas court records and arrests reported to county sheriff's offices, and you can ask for a free sex offender report. It's $100 membership set-up fee and they charge us $10 per report we run. We charge the applicants a $35 app fee for one and $40 for a couple, which covers the Fabco costs and our work in calling past employers to speak to them personally. Fabco is worth every penny. Good luck!

@Edward Mccracken

We have rentals in Cook County too. I always find stuff in county records that didn't come up in the searches that I pay for, and I do always pay for a national search, eviction search, ect, but I still often find stuff in county records that the searches I pay for didn't find. So I always look in Cook, Will, and DuPage counties records. For Cook it's the Cook County online docket. It's a pain to use, and doesn't work well if someone has a common name. Make sure you search for them both as plaintiff and defendant. And look for their Facebook page and see if they talk about the "zoo of animals" they didn't mention on their application...

@Edward Mccracken , I try to get my tenant to do the paid background check ($15 for criminal and $20 for credit check). However, there are several cases where charges get dismissed due to poor landlord documentation or the tenant being more familiar with tenant laws, we as landlords may have to do better due diligence. Infact some tenants are more familiar with these laws than lawyers, the "professional tenants" and their mischiefs may not show up in the background checks. 

I try to do a court record search in the 4 surrounding counties of where I have my rental. This takes 15 to 20 minutes. All we need is their last name. The more of this you do, the faster it becomes. Standard websites and web searches. I also make sure I do a proper reference check of previous landlords. An hour invested here is better than having to go through 2-3 months of lost rent and eviction costs.

Here in Rochester, NY, they do not have an online service to examine these types of things. You actually have to drive down to the courthouse, drive around to find a spot, pay for parking, and go in and wait in line. This still presents issues though. I had a prospect tell me she had been arrested for drugs many years back. I wanted to know the details so called the county, city, and sheriff's office and I just got the runaround. No one seemed to know where I could get this information and they all pointed the finger at someone else. 

It's a very outdated system, and one I cannot do anyways because I work full-time during open court hours. I need to rely on one background service to find out all the pertinent information, but have learned that my go to (Tenantbackgroundsearch.com) does not capture everything. It missed this person's arrest and another's eviction (and who knows what else). 

Has anyone found one that seems to catch everything?? Every post I read on here seems to indicate that all of these services are not 100% reliable. I require my applicants to pay for the whole shebang (national eviction, criminal history, credit, etc). @David Panzera , have you found Fabco to be reliable? That's one I haven't heard mentioned yet. @Jeff Gates , have you found a solution? Using two different vendors seems pricey and time-consuming. 

There is a problem with eviction discovery and it is industry wide. There is no one stop solution. I sincerely believe the government assists to hide this information, to protect the weaker citizens.

I have somewhat of a solution for you that just pertains to your Rochester county issue.  First of all, I completely agree with about going to the court house, paying $35 for a parking space, trying to locate where to go, finding an open computer, and then trying to figure out a dos based program that the normal functions on a keyboard doesn't navigate you through the program like it would on any other program.  We have similar issues.  I had to go to my local court house three times.  What I did was look for somebody who knew what they were doing.  So then I started asking them questions.  I found a person who claimed she lived at the court house always looking up records.  I told her what I do and then I asked, "Can I just pay you and then you send me the report back on what you find?  How much would you charge me, since you are always here?"  I put the ball in their court to tell me how much they want.  Usually, its reasonable.  Now before you decided what you would pay for it, think about trying to make it to the court house in time before they close, pay $35 for parking, wait for a computer and then try to figure out how to use it.  That right there, made my shirt tight and my skin green thinking about the time wasted.  The lady I met wants $10, which I'm more than happy to pay. I just quick pay her the money. 

Now somebody might complain and say what happens if they committed a crime somewhere else.  Opp's someone got passed me then, sorry.  I will take my chances because of my other checks that I have in place.  Chances are they got caught committing crimes in multiple city's including the one they want to live in.  

That's kind of why I made this post was because these sites have to have access to data bases somehow, that I want access to.  I just need to figure out how they get it.  

Another one of your issues of, "these data bases that you are searching is not always accurate."  You have to think about the professional tenant, changing the spelling of their names, maiden names, middle names for last names.  When you pay a company they are only searching the name associated with the social security number.  You can also blame the landlord also for this.  When I file an eviction, I use their middle initial and I also add in aka (as known as)  I feel obligate to publish accurate information these types of people.  

Interesting ideas @Edward Mccracken . What other checks do you have in place? I am not aware of any other resources here besides going down to the courthouse. 

As to your last comment about the landlords, i agree. I have evicted people through the whole process, just on principle alone, so that no one else can get screwed like I did. If all landlords just give up because they think they won't get their money, or worse, give cash for keys, then these folks will NEVER learn and never have any consequences and more landlords will be punished in the future because it won't actually hit their record.

I'm still curious if anyone has found a good background service that they really trust? Obviously it's needed! :) 

@Shannon Sadik , interesting comment. You are the first person I have seen speak unfavorably about cash for keys. Willingly going through an eviction out of principle seems like an incredible amount of time, energy, and lost profit. You seem like the kind of landlord who would give an honest review of your previous tenants - can you explain why you feel like this is not enough? Are there any situations where you would do cash for keys?

@Aaron Mikottis Since you asked for my option :) I hate the concept but I would do what ever it takes to get them out.  Think about if you were receiving the end product of the cash for keys situation.  You get this piece of garbage that their landlord PAID them money to move out because they were bums.  You don't think they would do the same to you?  I would be furious.  

I never had a to do a cash for keys yet, but if the situation did happen.  I would add the cash into their final balance and then place that as a collections on their credit for $7.95.  So if a potential landlord did run their credit, this would show.  Then the next year give them a 1099-c debt forgiveness that is then taxed as income and you know they aren't going to claim it.  

@Aaron Mikottis , am I really the only one? I don't claim to know it all, but in my experience, I don't see the need for cash for keys if you start the process of eviction immediately upon not receiving your rent by the 3rd or 5th. If you push your lawyer to file right away, you can get a court date before the end of the month. The judge can then require the tenant to either pay the rent or move out immediately and if they don't do either, then you can get a marshall to come to their house within 3 days and physically make them move. If you take care of everything immediately, the tenant will be out by the end of the month. You hopefully have their security deposit but if not, then you can garnish their wages now that you have a court order (which is free as opposed to collections). I am currently in that phase and am hoping that I will eventually get everything back, including the legal fees as that was in the lease. It is a hassle, but your lawyer and the marshall do most of the work. You may have to push them along to get things to move quickly and the wage garnishment process itself takes forever, but that doesn't cost me any time or money. 

Our tenant in this situation was just so spiteful and mean. She had the money and told us so, but refused to pay because she 'didn't like our lease" which prohibited smoking indoors. She sent us nasty text messages, and while I tried to be nice and fair, i could tell that was not going anywhere with her. I told her the ramifications of being evicted, but she didn't seem to believe me, so i felt it was necessary to follow due process 1) to teach her that she does have to follow the rules and 2) because she seemed like she would do it again, and hopefully the next landlord will see her eviction and she will feel some of that pain and maybe learn her lesson. (Although I have yet to have one person call me about any of my previous tenants, including this person's next landlord.) She presents herself as intelligent and responsible and has a good job, so it's important that this go on her record as she really was a Jekyll/Hyde type person. 

Ultimately, you have to ask yourself: is it better in the long run to REWARD this person for not paying her rent (not only did she save on her rent, but now she's getting EXTRA cash and has learned she can work the system) or PUNISH her for doing something illegal? Yes, it could be a bit harder work, but I think it's worth it. And if I don't get paid in full, I will be upset, but it's a tax write off in the end. However if I evict immediately, I am actually saving more money then letting time pass, missing another month's rent and then trying to pay them to get out. 

I guess an exception to this might be someone who you cannot get the money from, such as someone who pays with SSI since you cannot garnish this. I am in that situation now as well and am wondering if come the 1st, i will have to evict a tenant who, even though given two months to find another place, tried not to pay her last month's rent (so we served her a notice to pay or quit on the 4th) and immediately got our rent, but now claims she has no money to pay the next landlord so cannot move. She has to be out on the 30th and I'm afraid she won't be. (Both of these tenants were inherited, not ones we picked, so we do not have security deposits for either). 

The eviction process is flawed and greatly favors the tenants, but to me, that's all the more reason to fight against it. 

@Shannon Sadik you are on a different planet than Aaron and I.  Over here, is months before the sheriff will come to the home and kick them out and that's if you get decent judge.  The judge usually doesn't give immediate possession, lets say 2 weeks.  After the two week is up, you take the possession paper downtown, its a half day event.  Then get in this long line of evictions that need to be done.  Depending on the time of the year it can take 3 months for them to get out there, which would make cash for keys a powerful tool.