Select the Right Tenants: Top 11 Questions to Ask Tenants
Your property is one of your biggest assets, but it can also be one of your biggest liabilities if the wrong tenants are dwelling in them.
As a landlord, screening your potential tenants is probably one of the most important jobs you’ll have to do.
It firstly helps you detect red flags, narrowing down your search for potential tenants. Secondly, asking the right questions will not only save you time and money but… a lot of stress.
Screening and selecting tenants is a lot like conducting a job interview and asking qualifying questions. Below Property Managers Online presents to you the top 11 questions to ask tenants.
- Why are they moving?
This question will reveal a lot of things about the tenant. Here are some things you should be looking for.
– Whether they have been evicted
– Do they want more room or are they changing jobs?
– If they are involved in a dispute with the previous landlord or neighbour
– Is there potential for any criminal activity?
Beware of the answers to this question. Tenants may take this opportunity to give you sob stories to look at them in a more favourable light. Although some will be legitimate reasons, it’s important to remain objective and screen every tenant equally and based on your criteria.
- Have they been evicted?
If you couldn’t find out about this in the previous question its best to ask directly. Any past eviction is an instant red flag because if they had issues with landlords in the past, then they’ll likely have issues with you as well. The next follow up question is why have they been evicted? It might have been a long time ago or for a legitimate reason, so it is up to your discretion.
- What’s their employment situation?
The next important thing to establish is whether your potential tenants can pay rent. Ask about their employment situation, such as what job they’re working and how long they’ve been with the employer. This should give you an indication regarding their job stability and thus their income stability. These are great indicators of whether they will be able to pay rent.
- What is their monthly income?
The follow up question to their employment situation is how much they earn every week or month. This will give you a stronger indication of the individual’s ability to pay. A good rule of thumb is that tenants should earn enough each month to be able to pay two months’ worth of rent. If there is more than one earner then take the combined amount.
- Will you agree on a credit and background check?
Knowing how much they earn is important, however, you may not know about the expenses or debts they potential tenant has. This may affect their ability to pay rent.
Someone with extensive debts, or have a lot of expenses to pay off will usually have a strain on their income, and naturally a strain on the flow of your rental income.
- Do you have any pets?
Whether you mind pets living on your property is your call. Understand that allowing pets to live on your property represents additional risk to damaged property and messes.
- What is your move in date?
This question can help you further determine the tenant’s profile. If the tenant wants to move in the next day or as soon as possible, it may be signalling to you that this tenant is not organised or responsible. Some legitimate reasons may be regarding a new baby, change of jobs, more room and or domestic abuse. With such cases, it is at your discretion to decide which ones will tick the criteria and which ones do not.
- Will you have the security deposit and the first month’s rent available upon move in?
You’ll notice the theme of these questions. Do not make any exceptions or negotiate with this rule. If they do not have enough money to pay for rent and a security deposit, then it will only go down from there. Security deposits insures any damage the tenant does to your property and paying rent in advance helps you ascertain their financial stability. If they cannot, then they will continue down the path of not being able to afford rent every month. You do not want to develop this kind of unreliable relationship with any of your tenants.
- How many people will be living on the property?
This question is your call. Generally, you want fewer people per bedroom because it decreases the chances of wear and tear, and damages too. You should also consider not overcrowding because it can be illegal and pose as a potential health and safety risk.
- Can you provide references?
Referencing is important to verify and ensure most things they’ve told you is true. You would want to look references from their employer and former landlords to cross reference their income stability and general history with renting. Some things to consider are not asking current landlords as they may be hiding something from you, to find the background information yourself if you can, and to understand that if the potential tenant hesitates or makes excuses as to why they can’t provide you with reference. You should take these as a red flag.
- Do you have any questions?
Remember that renting a property goes both ways. Although you want a good tenant, the tenant may also be screening you to ascertain whether they want to live on your property. Give your potential tenants the opportunity to ask you questions.
In conclusion, the point of these questions and the screening process is to find as much information on them as possible, to detect any potential and unseen problems if they rent. By being able to prevent the wrong people from renting this early in the screening process, you are saving yourself time, money and stress. Remember that your property is an asset that is worth protecting… So it’s time to start taking measures and asking the right questions to find the right tenant.
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