It’s hard to tell who is going to be the perfect tenant but it all starts with asking the right questions to screen for the best fit. So what are the right questions? Consider the screening process similar to a job interview. Qualifying your tenants through a series of questions that you ask every prospective tenant will give you some insight into their personality, character and habits. Getting down to the details will save you a lot of time and grief in the long run to ensure the tenant is going to be a great fit for you and your property.
Question #1: Why Are You Moving?
People move for a number of reasons. New to the city, starting a new job, landlord is selling, or needing a larger space are all common reasons that people would move. Listen to the answers and notice if any details surface from your question that might be red flags or uncommon from the what you’d expect. What you don’t want to hear is that they are moving because they’ve fallen out with their housemates or that they have had problems with their landlord.
Question #2: When Do You Anticipate Moving In?
A responsible tenant is likely going to plan in advance when they will be moving. Most landlords require a 30 day notice to terminate a lease so if a tenant is suggesting that they want to move in tomorrow it might be worth probing why they are in a rush to move. Asking this question would also allow you to schedule any maintenance and repairs needed prior to the move in. If the suite is currently tenanted this would also allow you to coordinate the move out and booking of the elevators.
Question #3: What is Your Monthly Income?
This question can help you determine if the prospective tenant will be able to afford their monthly rent. A rule of thumb is the tenant should have enough income that is 2x – 3x times their monthly rent. Unexpected expenses will come up and you would want to know that the tenant can cover their rent first.
Question #4: Can You Provide a Reference from your Landlord or Employer?
Always ask for a reference check from a former landlord or employer. What you might want to do is also check on LinkedIn to see if their work history matches up with who they have given you as a reference. With the exception of someone moving out of their parent’s house for the first time it doesn’t hurt to ask for the parents contact as a references. Mom and dad will also give you some insight into prospective tenant and the relationship the family has.
Question #5: Can You Provide a Credit and Background Check?
Simply put, if someone refuses a credit or background check disqualify them. More than half of property managers that we spoke to don’t run credit or background checks because of the costs associated. Is it worth the risk? Tenant can wait for a free report delivered by mail or you can request for an instant report through TransUnion ($22.90), Equifax ($23.95) or Freecreditscore.com ($9.99 per month). Getting a verbal consent isn’t good enough. You must have the prospective tenant sign a permission to run these checks.
Prepare, ask and listen. Compare the answers to the rental application to highlight any possible discrepancies which might reveal more information about whether the prospect is going to be suitable for your property. Never make a decision before meeting the prospective tenant and don’t fall into the trap of pleas and sob stories. (We’ll save the good ones for next time…)
What other questions do you ask your prospective tenants? Let us know in the comment section.