Determining whether or not a prospective tenant has a history of criminal behavior is obviously important. This is not just to protect landlords and their property, but also any neighboring tenants and the community…
Free and Paid Research: For your benefit, we will be discussing how to search records on your own for free. In addition, we will answer when and why it may be necessary to use a professional research service.
Government Websites: The majority of government websites are free to use which makes this the most affordable option for searching criminal records as long as you know which jurisdiction to search.
County Repositories: Most criminal convictions are prosecuted at the local county level unless they fall under the jurisdiction of the federal government. To find these records for free, search for the following:
• Clerk of the Court (Public Records) Each county usually has it’s own clerk which maintains all of its local civil and criminal cases. Visit Google.com and search for “(County name) + Clerk of the Court.”
Federal Repositories: While there is no official publicly-accessible website from the federal government for criminal convictions per se, there are two useful websites worth checking (without paying a fee):
• U.S. Dept of the Treasury (Terrorist Watch List) The Office of Foreign Assets Control publishes the terrorist watch list which is updated a couple times per month at www.ustreas.gov/offices/enforcement/ofac/sdn
• FBI (State Sex Offender Registries) The Federal Bureau of Investigation offers a link to every states’ sex offender registry website at the following address: www.fbi.gov/hq/cid/cac/states.htm
When is it necessary to hire a professional? While local criminal records can be easily obtained for free, what do you do when you don’t know where the subject has traveled or lived previously?
Professional Research: Tenant screening services such as AmerUSA.com offer the benefit of casting a wide net to see what can be caught across multiple counties and across state lines (in a matter of seconds).