I received a great email from a person I spoke to about a landlord tenant issue just a bit ago. We did not come to an engagement on the case, but this landlord wanted to update me about the eviction situation. The landlord suggested I pass along one simple tip to my readers and so I’m going to do that.
While I have written here and there about tenant screening, here is a great and simple tip. While I usually advise my landlords to obtain a full application from perspective tenants that includes full background information, references, work history, rental history, and a credit report, criminal background check, and prior eviction check, there is one quick and simple check landlords can do that can save them time and money. A simple search of the Cook County Circuit Court’s Electronic Docket Search will yield potentially useful information to a landlord.
While I would never suggest that this do-it-yourself method should be employed as the sole check on a tenant, taking the time to see if a tenant has been evicted in the past can be a time and money saver. The search is, of course, limited to Cook County public records, so it is not as complete as a full prior eviction search through a tenant screening information service. That said, I have had plenty of clients who have found this resource once it was too late – ie. after the tenant was in possession of the rental property!
Here’s what the website will look like:
A landlord can set the Division Name to “Civil” and can then type in the prospective tenant’s last name into the search box and select “defendant”. A search will yield a list of cases if there are any “matches” with the last name. Clicking on a case will bring up a bunch of information.
If there is a “hit”, the case will say that it is a SINGLE ACTION or a JOINT ACTION. That’s an eviction case! It looks like this (names redacted):
While a prior eviction might not be the sole determining factor in deciding whether or not to accept a tenant, it is certainly a significant factor. I know for a fact that there are “professional” tenants out there who have five or six evictions in their past. Avoiding them is a good idea and checking on prior evictions is one quick way to do that.
Don’t substitute this “quick and dirty” screening method for a full and complete screening plan and process. This should just be one tool in the toolbox.