From The Trenches... - Posted by JPiper

Posted by JayHoward on January 17, 2001 at 08:20:08:

Wow Jim, that’s some great information. I am going to start calling today about this. The Tulsa land and tax records are online; all libraries have terminals to look up the info. I need to see if there’s a way to look from home. I’m concerned the courthouses will offer some resistance to selling the eviction info, but I’m going to call them today. I need to remember all of this info is public record.

Overall, it sounds like you have a great service that provides excellent value to the landlords in your area. That’s great. And thanks for the informative reply! By the way is this a business you run in addition to REI?


From The Trenches… - Posted by JPiper

Posted by JPiper on January 12, 2001 at 22:30:11:

Show a prospective tenant/buyer the house the other day. The like it…they seem like nice folks. My “gut” tells me they’re good…but I check them out anyway.

First step, into the civil records database. Oops…there they are…two landlord complaints. One of them the landlord gets a judgment for $7K. I track down the landlord and call him (naturally he wasn’t a reference on the application, and the judgment doesn’t show on the credit report).

The landlord verifies that “yep, it’s them”. “Nice folks he says”. I ask him if they damaged the property. He say, “no, they left it in good shape”. I say “Then why the judgment for $7K?” He says “That’s the rent”. How much was the rent I say? He says “The rent was $250 per month”. Ouch! I say…you mean they didn’t pay for more than 2 years? “That’s right” he says. “I guess I’m an old softie”. “Nice folks though”.


Re: From The Trenches… - Posted by Jim Locker

Posted by Jim Locker on January 13, 2001 at 10:24:51:

Some months back, our screening service receives a phone call. The lady is very well spoken, with excellent manners. She says that we screened her for one of our clients, and we had pulled the wrong information. It seems that we had reported her having several evictions, and (if I remember correctly) a couple arrests for DV.

It wasn’t her, she said. We got the wrong person.

Now, since I own a screening service, I am very concerned about such allegations and I immediately began to investigate. I pulled the report we sent the client, and I then searched our databases. Yep, sure looks like her.

But, says I, we don’t have social sec. numbers on any of this data. The name is not a common one, which increases the liklihood we have the right one, but it is not conclusive.

The credit file was empty. Blank. Nada. And this on a woman who is about 40 years old and did not grow up in Appalachia. This (in case you didn’t know) is a major red flag. It occasionally happens, but it is very rare.

The woman came to the office. Very clean, very neat, very well spoken. I looked at and copied her drivers license. She insisted we had the wrong person, and this time threatened to sue us. As we talked, more and more information came out; where her family lived, where her mother works, and so forth. I took notes.

I contacted the landlords that showed in our records. They described the same woman I had been talking to. I asked if they had her Social Sec. number. None of them had collected it (three of them) (NB: ALWAYS GET THE SSAN BEFORE RENTING TO THEM!!!).

I explained our problem to each LL. Each of them gave a very negative reference, and each of them provided us with some background info about their tenant. One of them says; “you’ve got the right one, she’s the only one around with that name. Her mother is the manager at ----”.

BINGO! Named the same person as mother, and the same place as place of mother’s employment.

The rest of the story. We put it together, and by the time we were done, we were positive we had the right person. We were willing if necessary to take our information into court.

She called back, asking what we were going to do. I told her we had her pinned down and it was her. I told her that we were going to report everything we had - EVERYTHING - to any client of ours who screened her. I told her that her attempt to defraud US was now listed in our records and would be reported to any client who asked.

It seems she had had her credit file scrubbed. Illegal, but possible. She thought she was home free.

But we keep our own records. And we don’t purge them.

Since that time, we have been contacted twice by clients of ours. Both times they asked us what we had on this person. “I showed her an apartment, and she was interested. She asked who we would use to screen her, and we told them we used you. Then she lost interest.”

Never, never, never trust your gut. This woman had me scared for a bit. She looked real good.

Re: From The Trenches… - Posted by SCook85

Posted by SCook85 on January 13, 2001 at 09:01:24:

I didn’t check references that much in the beginning, but as a result of being burned often, I now check, probably not as thoroughly as I should, but I’m improving. If my gut told me that they were good, I probably would have let them move in to my place a while back. Probably would have been a hard lesson on my part.

Thanks for the heads up.


Re: From The Trenches… - Posted by Frank Chin

Posted by Frank Chin on January 13, 2001 at 07:07:23:

I had a similar situation not too long ago.

A friendly, professional looking, fiftyish women came to rent a 2 bedroom apartment. She looked like anyones grandma. I was very pleased.

I ask "For yourself?"
She said "I have a son going to medical school visiting sometimes"
I said "Great - how many kids you have"
She says “He’s the only one. I’m really proud of him.”

Spoke to my wife later. We usually ask the same questions over the phone before they came. My wife said - "I was pretty sure she mentioned she has a daughter visiting.

Nowadays I always do employment, bad check, credit, eviction checks through a service I use. Back then, i don’t to save money if my gut feeling is good.

Called the lady back. Asked for her supervisor’s name (not the phone number). She stuttered a moment and said she has it upstairs. Gave me the name and number of someone to call. I called and a gentlemen gave a glowing reference. Felt strange she forgot the supervisors name.

Then I called the personnel office of the bank she works at and was told no one with that SS# is working or ever worked there. It was interesting that she has a work number on the application. When you call, it says you reached the ofice of Mrs so and so.

Intrigued, I ordered the reports. An eviction and judgment showed up. Called the landlord up who confirmed it was the same lady but he didn’t go into specifics.

I had to call the lady back since I indicated the apartment was hers after I do the checks. Told her that there was an eviction that she forgot to put on the application. On top of it, the personnel office has no record of her. I ask “Should I check further?” She said she understood.

Now I always order the reports no matter how good someone looks.

Re: From The Trenches… - Posted by Laure

Posted by Laure on January 13, 2001 at 03:43:43:

I had a couple this week similar situation. She has good job 41k income, he is contractor (watch out !)

She admitted that she owes previous Landlord over 6 months rent. I pull their credit. They haven’t paid one single bill on time, in over 7 years. Most bills, they just don’t pay at all.

Great folks. I hated to tell her she couldn’t have the place. I just kept remembering how much fun it is to go to court and get an uncollectable judgement ! LOL

Laure :slight_smile:

Ouch! - Posted by Jim IL

Posted by Jim IL on January 12, 2001 at 22:48:22:

Good thing you checked them out.
Can you even imagine allowing someone to live on one of your homes rent free for two years?
People never cease to amaze me.
Thanks for sharing, I needed a giggle tonight.

Take care,
Jim IL

Re: From The Trenches… - Posted by JD

Posted by JD on January 14, 2001 at 10:01:12:

I love stories about exposing deadbeats!

Re: From The Trenches… - Posted by Pat Fridley

Posted by Pat Fridley on January 13, 2001 at 19:17:19:

How would I go about finding a service such as yours in Columbus, Ohio?
Thanks in advance

Re: From The Trenches… - Posted by Jim Locker

Posted by Jim Locker on January 13, 2001 at 19:49:09:

Contact the Columbus Real Estate Investors Assoc. They can steer you.

BTW…we are in Springfield OH and cover Clark, Champaigne, and Greene counties.

Re: From The Trenches… - Posted by JayHoward

Posted by JayHoward on January 15, 2001 at 09:25:20:

Hey Jim,

I haven’t checked this in my area yet, tulsa, but if there isn’t such a service, what would you recommend I do if I was interested in starting one? I love the research part of this business and it seems your service is a great deal of research. Besides, I would love to catch the deadbeats, like someone else mentioned. How did you get started doing this?


Re: From The Trenches… - Posted by Jim Locker

Posted by Jim Locker on January 15, 2001 at 19:36:49:

Starting such a service consists of getting the data, getting it into a database, keeping the data up to date, and marketing.

You get the eviction data from your local courthouse(s). You should buy all the evictions going back some distance - at least 3 years, and 5 would be better. You get all this data into a database somehow.

Then buy police records of arrests and/or convictions. You might have the capability to subscribe to a dial-up service that lets you enquire from an online database for a monthly fee; this would be cost effective. Here, we pick up the arrest notices daily out of the local newspaper and enter it into our database. It isn’t perfect or complete, but it gets all the big things.

In our service, we verify property ownership in order to catch the applicant who lists a friend as a landlord. You can do this several ways; possibly Tulsa property records are online (Tax records) in which case you are home free. Literally free. Here, we subscribe to Hanes Criss-Cross for 3 counties worth of frequently updated housing records.

The whole thing is about collecting data and being able to rapidly access it. We collect evictions, arrests, landlords, applicants, bad guys, tenant address history, and property information.

I have written a database app (in Superbase of course) that integrates the whole thing. When we screen someone, we just enter their information into a form, and click on “screen”. The database pulls up all references to this person in all our databases, and also pulls up property information for present and previous addresses, and pulls up information on landlords listed on the app. We can get through all this in just a couple minutes.

Then we go online to the credit bureau and pull in their credit file. We review all this information and, depending on what we find, we then call landlords and employers. Often, after completing the computer work (5-10 minutes) we are done - if enough discrepancies show up, we contact the client and give the report, and ask if he wants us to continue. Usually, if we call early with such a report, the client says don’t bother to continue.

Marketing this service is easy. Every landlord who is evicting someone now is a potential client. We run the defendants through the database. If we get hits on them, and the LL is not a client, we send a letter. “Dear Landlord. We see that you are evicting Jane Pitiful Tenant. According to our records, Ms. Pitiful Tenant has been evicted 5 times before (see attached). If you had screened through us prior to renting to her, you could have saved yourself the expense and aggravation of an eviction now.”

This letter is very effective.

Finally, here is how you screen a tenant:

In my next major release of my property management software, I am going to provide a bit of the functionality of our screening service in the package. I will be lifting the tenant screening form, and the applicant data file, from the screening service and integrating it into the property management package. This will give managers the capability to track applicants they are screening from within the package, and automatically promote them to tenant status if accepted. It will be great for the manager with multiple large complexes; you will be able to tell if this person applied (and got rejected) at one of your other complexes a few months ago. You will also know immediately WHY they were rejected, and you can save yourself the expense of screening them again.