I am regularly asked the question: Doesn’t Experian check court records just like SubScreener? As a private investigator who has screened thousands of Subcontractors, my answer is: No, not even close.
Many screening companies use Experian or another 3rd party database to “check” court records for lawsuits, judgments, and liens. This is a quick and easy way for these so-called “screening companies” to claim they are checking for all of these records in the courts for their clients. This is hugely misleading and puts builders at risk of hiring shady subcontractors with a history of legal troubles.
Most screening companies operate like an assembly line. Documents are collected, only a few are verified, and an Experian report is generated. This is provided to the builder as a proper and “thorough” screening of their Subcontractors. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
These companies do not tell General Contractors about the limitations of Experian and what is regularly left out AT YOUR EXPENSE. Experian relies on an incomplete and woefully inadequate database that only shows a small percentage of the actual judgments and liens found in the court records. Let’s take a closer look at the picture below for what Experian actually provides and what is being omitted.
The executive summary shows TORRES GENERAL, INC (Subcontractor), without any legal filings.
Take a look at the next image below for a courthouse search on the same subcontractor. This reveals a very different reality from the Experian report – A HISTORY OF SEVERE LAWSUITS AND JUDGMENTS.
Experian omitted all of the settled cases. The majority of cases brought to court in the first place are settled, particularly when the SUBCONTRACTOR KNOWS THEY ARE AT FAULT.
But it doesn’t stop there. Experian also does not show any liens and whether they have been released or unreleased. But, again, the court records show a different picture. Take a look at the next image below.
The court records reveal several liens tied to this subcontractor, some of which remain unreleased. This is an IMPORTANT FACTOR determining if the Subcontractor lives up to their commitments or if they have the financial resources to work on your project.
CONCLUSION – an Experian report is unreliable because it omits a large number of judgments, settled cases, and provides no information on the status of liens against the Subcontractor. If I had to choose one thing to screen a Subcontractor, it would be the court records; they tell you EVERYTHING. From unethical behavior, shoddy work, accidents, broken contracts, and financial problems – you find all of this in the court records.
A great example is Clark Construction Group. 10News found a court complaint about a driller’s death in 2017. Frederick Von Kahl’s family sued Clark Construction Group and other defendants for negligence. After further investigation, San Diego court records showed Clark Construction Group had a history of legal disputes BEFORE THE INCIDENT.
With all that said, do you trust Experian?
Main Takeaway – General Contractors take full responsibility for the entire construction project. When you accept the liability of a Subcontractor, you should want to do the most thorough screening. One bad Subcontractor can tank your entire project.
If you want to learn more, reach me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let’s set up a time to chat.