In a perfect world, landlords would never have to worry about tracking down former tenants. Unfortunately, tenants will sometimes break a lease or vacate a property owing more money than their security deposit could possibly cover. These tenants often don't want to be found by a former landlord, but the Internet has a wealth of information that can help property managers track down these individuals.
Anyone who has typed a name into Google has likely found that a huge chunk of personal information is readily available for all to see. Fortunately, this works in the favor of landlords when they need to track down former tenants. A basic name search is the best place to start.
Even when Google doesn't easily return these results, it's often still possible to find a former tenant's new address and phone number on Whitepages. If this information is readily available, a landlord's independent research could be enough to find a former tenant.
In-Depth Rental Agreements
Landlords can use online property management software to acquire in-depth legal documents. The tenant should fill out employment information and provide references, and a landlord should verify all of this information before renting out a unit.
If a tenant skips out, the detailed rental agreements and verifying information comes in handy. It's often possible to contact these references to track down the former tenant.
When speaking to a reference, you may wish to ask if they have the current address available for follow-up purposes.
Skip Tracing Services
Those who use Whitepages or similar sites to find former tenants will see advertisements for skip tracing sites that offer to provide additional personal information. Sometimes these sites are the only resort a landlord will have for tracking down someone who owes them a substantial amount of money.
Unfortunately, skip tracing services can be costly, and if a person has rented an apartment with someone else or moved in with a relative, there's likely little information on record that these paid services can provide. Depending on the amount of money owed by the former tenant, however, the investment may be well worth it.
If the Internet Fails
Unfortunately, there are some things that even the Internet can't do. Even if it seems impossible to find information online, an old fashioned change of address with the United States Postal Service (USPS) can help you find a missing tenant.
You can potentially get a former tenant's new address by simply sending a piece of mail addressed to the tenant at the property he used to rent from you. On the letter, it's important to write "Address Service Requested."
Within a year of the change of address, the USPS will forward the mail to the tenant's new address and send a notice to you, the sender of the letter, with that new address. Between 13 and 18 months after the request, the mail will be returned to you with the new address attached. This is an inventive way to find a former tenant's new address so they can be served legal papers.
Thanks to evolving technology, it's more difficult than ever for individuals to remain hidden. When a tenant disappears with the intent to cheat a landlord out of money, online tools and tracking procedures offer landlords a good chance at tracking delinquents down.
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