By utilizing the proper tenant screening methods, you may be able to avoid future problems and headaches by performing the proper prescreening process.
Screening prospective tenants is much like interviewing candidates for a job. Asking good resident screening questions will help you determine who will make the best tenants for your property. Prescreening questions for renters help you determine why the renter is moving, what potential problems you may encounter and whether or not the tenant is qualified to rent from you.
Consider taking advantage of the benefits offered by a tenant screening service, and remember to follow fair housing laws by holding all applicants to the same set of standards. Here are some tenant interview questions that you can ask early in the process — even over the phone — to determine whether or not someone is a good candidate:
Please note: These questions do not serve as a fully comprehensive guide to tenant screening. While these questions are a useful starting point in the tenant prescreening process, they do not replace the tenant screening process as a whole.
Why did you decide to move?
Find out prospective tenants’ reasons for moving. If they are looking for a new place because of landlord problems or an eviction, you need to be careful. If they complain about their current landlord, be wary. Look for tenants who need a location change or a larger place for a growing family.
What is your monthly household income?
This may sound personal, but as a landlord you want to make sure the prospective tenants can afford the apartment. Whether you ask this question in person or on your tenant questionnaire, you need to know how much income they have. Look for tenants who make at least 2.5 times the amount you are charging in rent each month.
Will you agree to credit and background checks?
Credit and background checks must be part of your tenant application process, but you must get consent to administer these checks. If a would-be tenant is not willing to provide this consent, look elsewhere. This is one of the most important questions to ask when prescreening tenants.
Do you have a pet?
Make sure any pets the tenants have comply with your pet policy. Chances are tenants are not going to part ways with a furry family member to adhere to the terms of a lease.
How many people are living with you?
Is the apartment large enough for the number of people who will be moving in? You need to limit the number to no more than two people per bedroom. Allowing too many residents could be a violation of your municipality’s fire safety laws, and could put the occupants and other tenants at risk.
Have you ever been evicted?
Ideally, this would be one of the tenant prescreening questions to ask previous landlords. That’s not always possible. Don’t hesitate to ask this important question of would-be tenants, but know that you may not get a straight answer if they have something to hide. If they say “yes,” asking will give them the chance to explain. People sometimes have experienced a job loss or other difficult financial situation that they since have rectified, and this question gives them the opportunity to tell you the details.
If you need more information about creating a list of tenant screening questions, or are looking for help understanding or conducting background checks, call today to take advantage of the services offered by American Apartment Owners Association.
The information provided herein is for advisory purposes only and AAOA takes no responsibility for its accuracy. AAOA recommends you consult with an attorney familiar with current federal, state and local laws.