Having a valid residential address for a former tenant allows you to contact them via certified letter or serve them with court documents. Unfortunately, many tenants who owe their landlords money will not provide this information. However, there are several methods you can use to find their new address, so you can collect the debt.
Requesting the Address From the U.S. Post Office
The simplest way to find an old tenant's new address is to use the U.S. Post Office. First, you should send a letter to the tenant's last known address and write “address service requested” underneath the stamp. If the tenant has filed a change of address form with the post office within the past 12 months, the post office will notify you of the correct address for a small fee. They will also forward the letter sent at no cost. For an additional six months after the first year, the post office will return a letter with the wrong address to the sender and provide the new address at no charge.
Landlords can also file a Freedom of Information Act Request to obtain the address from the post office. In order to make a valid request, you must provide your own address, daytime telephone number, the maximum fee you are willing to pay for the information, and the records you seek. You don't have to provide a reason for the request, but explaining why you want the information may allow you to view possibly exempt documents.
Obtaining an Address From Friends or Family
Another easy way to find a tenant's new address is to call their emergency contact and references from their rental application. It's illegal for landlords to lie about their identity, but a polite phone call explaining that you need your former tenant's new address may yield the information you need.
Consider Checking the Court System
If it's possible that a tenant is being sued, is getting a divorce, is applying for bankruptcy, has been arrested, or has recently gotten a ticket, you may be able to find valid address through the court system. Some court systems have public records that can be searched online. Other court systems may require that you fill out a form and pay a fee for a public records search. Visit your local court system's website or call the court office to learn about the procedure in your area.
Calling Your Tenant's Employer
Landlords are also legally allowed to call former tenants at work to request payment of a debt or the tenant's new address. Unless tenants state that calls are forbidden at their place of employment, or specifically asks that they not receive calls from creditors, landlords can call the tenant at work.
Other Possible Methods for Finding an Address
Not all of these tactics are allowed by every state or institution, but these methods are also valid ways to find a tenant's new address.
Do You Need the New Address?
While finding a valid address is preferable, you can still initiate court proceedings or send an account to a collection agency without this information. In some states, if you intend to sue, you can serve your tenant at his or her place of employment. Other states allow you to publish a public notice in a local newspaper in lieu of sending a letter to the tenant. If you obtain a judgment against your tenant, you can then try to garnish wages or a bank account. At the very least, you can report your tenant's refusal to pay by reporting the debt to the three major credit reporting agencies.
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