If you’re planning to rent a house it’s wise to conduct research to make certain it’s not in foreclosure. Sadly, many foreclosed property owners offer their property as a rental to obtain extra income. They don’t divulge the small detail that the house will be repossessed; leaving tenants vulnerable to unexpected eviction through no fault of their own.
When renting a house, public records can be your best friend. Taking time to conduct research can save you time, money, and stress. While there is no guarantee the rental home will never enter into foreclosure, public records can help to ensure the home is not currently in foreclosure, is actually owned by the person offering it, and reveal activities surrounding the property.
Before sharing the details of how to check public records to ensure rental homes are not in foreclosure, I’d like to share my rental home horror story. The situation led me to become an expert on scouring public records.
In June 2008, my mother passed away after a hard battle with lung cancer. Prior to her death, my husband and I had been looking at rental homes with in-law quarters as we had intended to move mom in with us. She became too ill to make the long out-of-state move, so I stayed with her during the final four months of her life. After she passed, I inherited many of her belongings.
The home we were renting at the time was packed to the brim before bringing mom’s belongings in. We needed larger living quarters and began our hunt for a new place to call home.
We chose to work with a property management group because we had rented a home in 2005 from an elderly woman and 3 months later received a foreclosure eviction notice from the Sheriff. We had 72 hours to move and never wanted to endure that type of stress again. Being duped by a 71 year old woman left us feeling quite vulnerable.
The property management group persuaded us to rent a beautiful pool home in an exclusive area. The rent was extremely cheap for the area and we questioned it, but were told the homeowner was willing to accept a lower rate to offset his expenses.
We explained the foreclosure situation and how we were gun-shy about renting from private individuals. We were assured the home was not in foreclosure. In fact, the property owner had recently purchased the home, so there was “no way” he had defaulted on the mortgage.
We moved into the rental home in September 2008 and were presented with a Lis Pendens notice 3 months later. The Summons Server provided us with a copy of the loan papers, which gave us access to the property owner’s name.
Public records revealed the homeowner was a convicted felon charged with assault and battery while carrying a deadly weapon. He was employed by a temp agency, yet had purchased three homes amounting to well over one million dollars, all within a 6 week period. Things were starting to smell fishy.
The rental home was located in a small community. Once we shared our foreclosure story with neighbors, word began to travel throughout the community and we began receiving phone calls from strangers who informed us that the property management group had a very bad reputation and people believed they were involved in mortgage fraud.
The callers gave us names and addresses of suspected fraudulent transactions. Thanks to public records we were able to gather information surrounding over 40 homes which were bought through fraudulent means.
The property management group was buying distressed properties from homeowners facing foreclosure, renting them to unsuspecting tenants, and allowing the homes to enter foreclosure, all while still collecting rent monies.
When all was said and done, we presented evidence to the Attorney General’s office for potential mortgage fraud amounting to well over $100 million. As far as we know, the case is still pending.
When we moved out of the foreclosure rental home, we took great care to conduct research and ensure the new rental home was not in foreclosure. Since we were given little notice to vacate the foreclosure home, we didn’t have much time to find the perfect home. Instead, we moved into a very small beach house because the homeowner did not have a mortgage and there was no fear of being forced out again.
When our lease expired we began looking for another rental home. We have had great luck using Craigslist, but there are many scammers who list homes for rent. If you use this service, it is crucial to conduct research before ever signing a lease.
The first step of using public records to determine if a rental home is in foreclosure involves researching property records. Real estate deeds are recorded through county offices where the property is located. By typing in “property records” plus the county where the home is located, you should be able to locate the government website that archives these documents.
Most property record databases allow you to search by property address or owner’s name. Property records reveal the dates the property was purchased, previous and current property owners’ names, square footage, number of rooms, lot size, type of heat and air conditioning, additions made to the home, and appraised property value.
After verifying the property owner’s name, it is wise to conduct research on the owner. This can be accomplished by searching state and county public records. Type in “public records” plus the county or state name to locate the website that archives these records.
Some states and counties assess a nominal fee for records, but most provide the information for free. Public records can reveal if the property is secured by a mortgage, if there are any liens against the property, if a Lis Pendens has been issued, if the loan has been modified or satisfied, and if the property owner has obtained court ordered judgments from previous tenants.
Taking time to research public records on both the rental property and property owner can help ensure the home is not in foreclosure, as well as ensure you aren’t renting from a convict or con artist.
Trust me when I say you do not want to skip these steps. There is nothing worse than providing money to a person to rent a home, get settled in, then be uprooted and forced from the home within a matter of days. Moving is stressful, time-consuming, and expensive, but trying to locate suitable quarters and packing up your belongings in less than three days is enough to send any person over the edge.
In closing, don’t assume that a property management group is any more legitimate than private individuals. There are plenty of scammers in this world and they come in all shapes and sizes. Don’t let a pretty business sign and nice office lead you into false security.
If renting from a property management group or real estate agent, ask for the property owner’s name and conduct research. If the group or realtor won’t provide the information, find another place to rent.