7 Questions For Prospective Tenants
For many landlords, the only question worth asking is, “Can you pay this month’s rent?” Landlords may not want to pry into their tenants’ personal lives, they may be too busy with other tasks, or they just might not care. Yet a lot of the most common headaches landlords run into with difficult tenants could be avoided if they took the time to ask these 7 questions for prospective tenants during the vetting process.
In a lot of ways, interviewing a prospective tenant is a lot like interviewing someone for a job. You want to be sure that the candidate not only has the ability to do what you’re asking of him or her — in a landlord’s case, pay the rent on time — but you also want to be sure that the candidate is a good fit for the organization as a whole. For landlords, that probably means they’re looking for someone they can count on to be reliable and won’t cause problems for them after the first few months. Knowing a prospective tenant is trustworthy is a big factor for landlords, given that the average turnover rate for rental properties nationwide is more than 50 percent. Landlords can’t afford to sign leases with tenants who will break their leases before their time and add to their turnover problem.
Beyond whether or not they can afford the rent, there are many other factors that go into whether or not a prospective tenant is a good fit for a landlord or not, and it’s important that landlords discover them before they sign a lease with someone who turns out to be a real problem. Even though it may seem like you’re being nosy, these in-depth questions can help you safeguard your property from tenants who aren’t a good fit before you sign anything.
Here are 7 of the most important questions landlords should ask prospective tenants:
Can we discuss your employment record? A prospective tenant who is unwilling to answer even the most basic questions about his or her employment should be dropped from consideration immediately, as this is extremely important from a landlord’s perspective. If the prospective tenant agrees to discuss his or her employment, however, a landlord should follow up with questions about where he or she is employed, what his or her monthly income is, and whether or not his or her employer could provide a reference.
Can we discuss your move-in plans? It might not seem like any of your business why a prospective tenant is moving into your building. However, the answer may provide insight into the tenant’s life — including whether or not he or she has any pets; whether or not there will be other people living there; or if the move was precipitated by a major life change such as a pay cut or a divorce.
Can we run a complete background check? You will need written consent to conduct a background check, but anyone who is not willing to get one is probably not worth consideration as a tenant. Refusing to submit to a background check typically means there are some serious black marks on a prospective client’s record, such as a criminal history or credit problems.
Can you tell us about this issue that came up during our background check? Once a prospective tenant agrees to a background check, however, the door is opened for you to follow up with questions about anything unusual that comes up.
Can we talk to your current landlord? Experience is the best teacher, and a past landlord’s experience with a prospective tenant can teach you a lot. What the current landlord says about a prospective tenant is more than likely to be your experience, as well, so it’s a good idea to do your homework in that sense.
Can you pay a security deposit and the first month’s rent at move-in time? This question can give a landlord a good idea of a prospective tenant’s finances and ability to pay on time. If the prospective tenant haggles with you or is reluctant to agree, it could be a sign of a serious cash-flow problem that could become a regular problem for you. It’s better to identify those types of problems before the lease is signed.
Why would you make a good tenant? Not everyone is good at expressing themselves. However, an open-ended question like this — that can get a prospective tenant to talk about himself or herself — can provide you with some good insights about who he or she is as a person and how likely it is that he or she will be a good addition to your building.
Taken on their own, the answers to each of these questions might not tell you much about the person you’re considering as a tenant. However, the answers to all of them together will give you a much stronger idea of whether or not you can trust that person with your property. Keep the following guide in mind the next time you talk to a prospective client, and you’ll avoid making a mistake that could come back to haunt you for a long time.
Author bio: Christian Moore is COO at Global Verification Network. He brings more than 20 years of experience to the organization. Global Verification Network specializes in helping a wide range of industries with screenings, background checks, records and verification services.