To avoid problems with tenants, it is crucial for landlords to properly screen prospective tenants before leasing to them. The process should start with a good rental application form. Form 1 on the Forms page is a recommended application form prepared by Scott Law Firm. Among other things, by signing the form, a prospective tenant authorizes you to perform background checks including obtaining credit reports.
Warning: There is a possibility of facing a discrimination claim if you maintain a blanket policy of rejecting prospective tenants who have any kind of criminal history. To avoid problems, you should carefully study the topic Using Criminal Records to Screen Housing Applicants in the Prohibited Discrimination section of our Missouri Landlord-Tenant Law page.
You should check court records for the prospective tenant’s possible criminal and/or civil litigation history. It should be a red flag if the tenant has been evicted by other landlords. You can also consider obtaining a credit report on the prospective tenant. If you obtain a credit report and decide to reject a prospective tenant at least partly on the basis of the credit report, you must provide the tenant with a “Statement of Credit Denial.” See Form 3 on the Forms page.
Important Note: We have observed that some prospective tenants who have previously been evicted will provide false names or slightly change the spelling of their names so that their previous evictions cannot be found in an online search. For this reason, we strongly recommend that landlords require rental applicants to provide an official photo I.D. such as a driver license.
Resources for checking court records and obtaining credit reports are contained in Form 2 on the Forms page and are also repeated below:
Criminal and Civil Court Cases
You can ask court clerks for information on criminal and civil court cases. You will need to make your request for information in person at the following locations:
Circuit Court Clerk
Boone County Courthouse
705 E. Walnut St.
Columbia, MO 65201
Municipal Court Clerk
City of Columbia
600 E. Broadway
Columbia, MO 65201
Internet Access to Criminal and Civil Court Cases
- Go to the following web page: https://www.courts.mo.gov/casenet/base/welcome.do
- Select the search method you desire at the top of the page. On the next page select the desired Circuit (Boone County is in the 13th Circuit) and enter as much information as possible to narrow your search.
- If your search criteria match any case records, you will see a list of one or more matching cases.
- Click on the case number of any case you want to review.
- On the next page you will have several choices to view information about the case. Usually selecting “Docket Entries” will give you the most information in one place.
Note: For Boone County, you will receive the same information via the Internet as you can obtain by viewing the computerized records on a terminal at the Circuit Clerk’s office.
Private Companies that Perform Background Checks
We are aware of only one local company, Accudata Credit Systems, that performs background checks. Contact: Kevin Thompson, 2801B W. Truman Blvd., P.O. Box 359, Jefferson City, MO 65102, telephone 573-893-7500 or 800-475-6703, fax 573-892-7211.
Most landlords use online services to check the background of prospective tenants. According to our clients, the one most commonly used is AppFolio, which also provides accounting services for landlords.
Other online background checking services can be found by doing an internet search for “tenant screening.” This search will also locate reviews of these services.
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