How to Locate a Former Tenant
As a landlord, there may come a time when you have to sue a tenant who has skipped town, and has not left a forwarding address, so putting something in the mailbox is out of the questions.
There are some good as well as bad things about it.
The good, is that since the tenant abandoned the property, you don’t have to go through the painful eviction process.
While evictions are generally easy if you have all your ducks in a row, the result isn’t always guaranteed. Additionally, evictions can take some time to complete and get done.
The bad, is that if you can’t find the tenant, you may not be able to recover the money you are owed. This makes having to go through the court process, sometimes, not worth it.
So Now the Steps to Locate a Former Tenant:
Method 1 To Locate a Former Tenant: The Rental Application
Starting with the rental application should almost be intuitive when you are trying to locate a former tenant that hasn’t left a forwarding address.
Sometimes, however, for whatever reason, some property owners don’t process a rental application. This could be because they purchased a property when tenants were already in place, or they didn’t have tenants fill out a rental application when they leased the premises.
Whatever the reason, it is never a good idea not to have the tenant fill out a rental application.
How can you effectively screen a potential tenant without a rental application?
Assuming you did have the former tenant you are trying to locate fill out a rental application, what do you do with it?
Check the Former Tenant’s Rental Application or Personally Identifiable Information
Your rental application should have nuggets of information you can use to track down you tenant.
Assuming you did a background check and credit report, you should have access to the former tenant’s social security number, date of birth, driver’s license information, and previous addresses.
This is in addition to current and past employers, emergency contact information, references, and past known addresses.
All of this information can be used to narrow down the former tenant’s location, making it easy for you to find them.
Method 2 To Locate Your Tenant: Forwarded Mail
You can also send a letter to your former tenant to locate them.
What you want to do is send a letter to the last known address, and place “Address Service Requested” on the envelope.
In the event the tenant has forwarded their mail, the letter will be forwarded to them, and you will receive notification of what the new address is.
In the event the tenant has forwarded their address, you can then send the tenant a certified letter with the copy of any court documents including a judgment for money owed, or demand for payment.
This method is only going to be beneficial if the former tenant you are trying to locate has forwarded their mail.
Method 3 to Find Your Former Tenant: Search Online
You can also use online search engines to attempt to locate your former tenant.
These search engines give you a lot of information, but the downside is that it may not be as current as you would like, and requires third party services to feed them the information.
The upside is the cost to conduct a search is often pretty nominal.
Some good websites to search include:
- Pipl People Search
- Instant Checkmate
We would recommend using a couple of different online search engines, as they may reveal different results.
Method 4 to Track Down Your Former Tenant: Hire a Bounty Hunter
Well you don’t really want to hire a bounty hunter (unless it is Dog the Bounty Hunter because we love a good mullet).
What you want to do is hire either a private investigator, or a debt recovery agency.
Although both of these will cost different amounts, it may be worth it depending on the size of the judgment you received, or the extent of the recovery you are seeking.
Both a private investigator, as well as a debt recovery agency will have more tools at their disposal to help you find your former tenant.
Just provide them with all the information you have at your disposal, and let them get to work.
Again, these may be a little cost prohibitive, but you can weigh the pros and cons of the overall cost.
Method 5 To Locate Your Former Tenant: Go to Their Place of Employment
We put this last because, honestly, this is the last thing you should think about doing.
You don’t want to be charge with harassment for meeting your former tenant at their place of employment.
Desperate times call for desperate measures, however.
But we are going to instruct you on how to make this as painless as possible, without potentially exposing yourself to liability.
First, you look at your rental application to find out where your former tenant works. Next, you verify that they are still currently employed there.
You can verify by calling the employer and asking, or staking out to see if the former tenant goes into work.
Once you do this, you DON’T approach the former tenant after you locate them.
Instead, hire a process server, or the Sheriff if you are serving court documents, and have one of these parties do your work for you.
This keeps your hands clean from getting involved.
Don’t Give Up Searching for Your Tenant
It can be hard for you to track down a former tenant, but it isn’t impossible. Your goal is to be tenacious, without going overboard.
Be relentless, yet practical.
Hopefully your hard work pays off, and once you locate your former tenant, you are actually able to recover a judgment, and the tenant actually pays.
The Team at Linchpin Property Management
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The Pain in The Butt Disclaimer:
As always, information on this website is not intended to constitute legal advice, or the retention of our property management services, and is for general information purposes only.
Read our full disclaimer here: Legal Disclaimer
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