If the home is in foreclosure, that is public record. A notice of default (NOD) has been filed and recorded in the county where the property is physically located. Any real estate professional, title company or even the county clerk can provide this information. Send me the address (contact me through my profile) and I would be happy to tell you if the home is in foreclosure. There are also other signs that the home may be heading into foreclosure and we can discuss that also once you send the address.
To determine if the home is in default is much harder. Default means the payments are not current, but does not mean that the bank has filed a foreclosure action to collect on their debt. Unfortunately, many homeowners are 60-180 days delinquent on their payments before an NOD is filed. Due to privacy laws, you cannot get this information directly and neither can your real estate professional. You need to ask the landlord straight out and hope they will tell you the truth.
One last thing. If the home does go into foreclosure, you will get plenty of notice about that. Even if the landlord has changed the mailing address with the county, you will get lots of mail, possibly have people drop by looking for the owner, and then 21 days before the Trustee's Auction, a notice of sale will be posted to your front door. So if you really like the house and the landlord says it is not in default, then you can probably take the chance and move in. Just keep your eyes and ears open for the signs of foreclosure. That way you can negotiate with the owner to make sure you do not forfeit your deposit, but rather apply it to the last few months you stay in the home.
Also, in the state of California, if the home is taken back by the bank at the Trustee Sale, they will have to give you 60 days notice to vacate and might even offer you "cash for keys" to help you move. So, as long as the home is not currently in foreclosure, you will have plenty of notice if you have to move.
In today's climate, more and more tenants are being impacted by foreclosure. As long as you ask the right questions and look for the right signs, you can reduce your chances of falling prey to a landlord in default, however, there are no guarantees. Hope this helps and Dare to Dream
RE/MAX Palos Verdes Realty