Questions to ask tenants

These questions can help you screen tenants before taking the time to check up on references and will give you an insight into each individual, letting identify potential issues before they arise.

If prospective tenants are sketchy and offer only vague answers, you can take this as a warning that they might not be suitable.

You’re entrusting them with your asset, so you should take reasonable steps to ensure it won’t be mistreated and will be paid for promptly and in full each month.

These questions can begin the process of evaluating a tenant and finding a suitable fit for your property, which in turn should save you time, money and a lot of stress.

Why are you moving?

This is a natural question. It gives you a valuable opportunity to check for any potential problems. If they’re being evicted or are involved in a dispute with neighbors or a previous landlord, this is a cause for concern.

Ordinary reasons are things like new children on the way, moving jobs or looking for more space.

What’s your employment situation?

The most essential thing to establish is that your prospective tenant will be able to pay the rent. Finding out about their source of income should give you a clear indication of this.

You can follow up by asking how long he or she has been with their current employer – which gives you an idea of job stability. Find out more at the references stage.

How much do you earn?

This gives you a concrete idea of the individual’s ability to cover the rent. A good general rule is that the tenants should earn enough each month to pay two and a half months’ rent – but it’s important to take the combined figure into account if there is more than one earner.

It may be an awkward question, but you need to know how much prospective tenants earn to ensure they can cover the rent.

Do you have any credit card debts or other expenses?

Although the potential tenant’s earnings level will give you an overall idea of their ability to pay the rent, additional debts may put a strain on their income and make them unable to always pay on time.

It isn’t fair to assume, but extensive debts could also indicate that someone has difficulty managing their finances.

Can you provide references from your employer and previous landlord?

References are a great way to determine whether or not the individual is reliable.

Lying when you’re asked if you’re ever late to work or missing rent payments is easy, so the best way to find out about them is to ask the people affected such as previous landlords and employers. If they’re reluctant to give references or make excuses, this indicates they might be trying to hide something.

How many people will be living in the property?

This lets you know about their living situation and how many people your property will play host to. Generally speaking, two people per bedroom is the most you should consider, but this is ultimately your decision. More people will create more wear and tear too, as well as an increased chance of damage.

Do you have pets?

Pets shouldn’t strike a potential tenant off your list, but it may represent an additional risk. Whilst it isn’t always the case, pets could obviously scratch furnishings or make a mess in the property, particularly large ones.

It’s up to you whether or not you will allow pets in your property.

Have you ever been evicted?

Another potential red flag is previous eviction. If somebody has been evicted before, there are potential issues you need to explore, so the natural follow-up question should be to find out why.

Again, in some circumstances (if it was a long time ago with no issues since, for example) this doesn’t mean the tenant will be unreliable, but it’s not a promising sign.

When would you want to move in?

This question can give you an idea of how sensible the prospective tenants are. Most rental properties require 30 days notice prior to leaving, so anybody who wants to move in immediately may have left things too late and therefore may not be organised and reliable.

However, if the tenant is moving from their parents’ property, from abroad or a previously owned home, wanting to move as soon as possible would not be unexpected.

Do you have any questions?

You’ve had your turn, and it’s important to give your prospective tenant the chance to ask their own questions. You may have decided they’re right for you, but they might need some clarifications or questions answered before they’re willing to move. It will also help them to decide if you’re the right landlord for them and if the tenancy will suit their situation.

These 10 qualifying questions can be asked over the phone to save time from physically showing the property. A more in-depth screening of references and credit checks should occur, but this should save you some valuable time to determine who is a good fit for your property.

Try to find as much information as you can through this process without infringing on people’s rights.

No matter how good your screening process is there is always a potential for unseen problems. You may decide to take out insurance to cover the building in case of an unexpected problem, such as damage to any contents you provide, theft from a tenant, or non-payment of rent.

Always remember your property is a valuable asset and is worth protecting. That starts with taking the time and effort to find the right tenant.

Jason Gwerder
Sunday, 30 December 2018

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