If you’ve recently listed your property for rent and have started getting responses from potential tenants, you might be wondering how to determine the right tenant for your property. Well, you are not alone. Many people have trouble figuring out the best way to screen a potential tenant. The best way to find the right tenant is to set up a tenant screening process and to follow it to the letter to make a fair comparison of all the potential tenants. The best tenant screening process usually involves asking them a series of essential questions. So, we’re listing down some of the most important questions to ask a potential tenant to help you decide whether a tenant is right for your rental property or not.
List of Questions to Ask a Potential Tenant
Since you’re interested in renting your property, here are some essential questions that will help you determine the right tenant for your property:
- Why are you moving?
- How long have you lived in your current rental?
- When will you move in?
- Will you be able to pay the first month’s rent and security deposit?
- Are there any circumstances that may hinder your ability to pay the rent?
- How many people will be occupying the rental unit?
- Will your employer or your former landlord provide references?
- Have you ever been evicted from a rental property?
- Have you ever broken a rental agreement?
- Do you have a criminal record?
- Do you own any pets?
- Do you have any questions?
Let’s discuss each of these questions in detail to determine their significance in the tenant screening process.
Why Are You Moving?
While there can be several reasons why tenants move out of a rental unit, you, as the owner of a rental property, need to be wary of certain answers that raise a red flag.
If your potential tenant answers this one by saying that they wanted to move closer to work or family, or that they wanted a bigger or smaller space to accommodate their family in a better manner, you can mark this question with a green check mark.
However, if they had issues with the past landlord, were evicted by force, or felt like the rent was too high, you might want to reconsider finalising them for your rental unit. The next few questions will clarify the matter more.
How Long Have You Lived In Your Current Rental?
If you’re wondering about what questions to ask a potential renter, well, this is one of the most important ones. The reason is simple. If a tenant has been moving from property to property constantly rather than opting for stability, the chances are that they’ll continue the habit with you as well. Thus, they’d be leaving you with a sudden vacancy to fill mid-lease.
Instead, you need a tenant that has been living in their current rental for at least a year and has a genuine reason for moving homes now, as this can ensure that you’ll have the same tenant occupying your rental property for a year, or even longer.
Tenant retention, however, is not just dependent on the habits of a tenant. The behaviour of a landlord also plays a major part in all of this. There are some key traits of a good landlord that you should exhibit in order to retain your tenants for longer.
When Will You Move In?
While interviewing tenants, this is the next question that should be asked. The answer to this question is crucial in determining whether you and your potential tenant are the right fit for each other. There can be two possible answers to this question.
If your potential renter says that they want to move in immediately, be forewarned. Most renters start searching for a new place at least a month in advance when they give out a notice to their previous rental property owners. If the tenant you’re interviewing is searching for an immediate vacancy, know that you might be next in their list of landlords to receive a day’s notice before they move, leaving you with a sudden vacancy to fill.
On the contrary, any tenant that is searching for a rental unit but cannot move in before 1.5 months is a no-no. Why? Because they are not yet ready to decide and commit to it. As a result, if you have a vacancy to fill immediately and a potential tenant is unwilling to move in right away, you have an unhealthy combo at hand.
The best-case scenario would be to find a tenant who has given a month’s notice to their current rental property owner and is now searching for a new place to stay due to justifiable reasons.
What Is Your Monthly Income?
It is necessary to determine your tenant’s monthly income to avoid delays in the payment of rent every month. A general industry standard here is to choose a tenant that earns three times the rent amount, as this ensures that they will always be on time with rental payments in spite of having urgent or additional expenses to cover from time to time.
Will You Be Able To Pay The First Month’s Rent and Security Deposit?
Regardless of whether you own one or several rental properties, you should never accept a tenant that cannot pay the security deposit and first month’s rent before moving in. Do not make any exceptions to this rule and do not bow down to negotiations of payment in instalments or delays. If a tenant has trouble paying you now, it is possible that they will have trouble in paying the monthly rent down the line.
Are There Any Circumstances That May Hinder Your Ability to Pay The Rent?
When you are interviewing tenants, listen very carefully to the answer to this question. If a tenant states a loss of employment or a medical emergency as one of the circumstances due to which they might delay rental payments, then consider this a standard response that doesn’t ring any alarms. Any other circumstances, such as loan repayments, which are an expected part of a tenant’s monthly expenses, should not affect payment of rent every month.
How Many People Will Be Occupying The Rental Unit?
One of the other questions to ask a potential tenant is regarding the number of family members that will be moving into the rental property. Ideally, the fewer people living in your unit, the less wear and tear you’ll have to face. A family of adults is also usually preferred by landlords as compared to a family having small kids. However, the choice between a large or a small family depends on the space available in your rental property. You should look for a maximum of two people for every bedroom in the unit.
Will Your Employer Or Your Former Landlord Provide References?
If you are renting your property in Pakistan, you need to find a reliable tenant, who will pay their rent on time and with whom you can maintain a good landlord-tenant relationship. As such, the best way to screen a potential tenant is to get references from their current employer and their former landlord. Ask the tenant you’re interviewing to provide you with references and contact numbers and follow up on the information to verify it.
Have You Ever Been Evicted From A Rental Property?
Asking this question during your tenant screening process will allow the tenant to explain the situation that led to the eviction. Even if your tenant is not completely honest with you, you can easily discover if they’ve been evicted once you contact their past landlords. The purpose behind asking this question is to give the tenant a chance to explain the situation themselves, as good people can face hard times in life that may lead to an eviction.
However, if your tenant answers the question positively but refuses to explain the matter or if you discover that they had been evicted from another source, then you should think twice before accepting them as your tenant. Past evictions are often indicative of future evictions as well, particularly if the eviction was due to noisy behaviour or because of excessive damage being caused to the property.
Have You Ever Broken A Rental Agreement?
As a landlord, you are looking for a tenant who will consider the tenancy agreement as a firm contract that is not to be broken. Ending a lease agreement early due to a job relocation or due to noisy neighbours is understandable but if your tenant has no valid reason for breaking a past tenancy agreement, see this as a red flag and make sure you check with previous landlords to verify their reasons for leaving a rental property.
Do You Have a Criminal Record?
A tenant with a criminal record can be trouble. Regardless of how small the felony might have been, it is important to ask this question from every potential tenant. While most renters might not answer this one honestly, a tenant that hesitates even a little before answering this question might be hiding something.
Do You Own Any Pets?
Many apartment complexes have a no-pet policy, and if your rental unit is located in one of them, this one can be a deal breaker. If you’re looking for a tenant who does not own pets and the one you are interviewing answers this question positively, you should not take the screening process any further.
If you do not have a no-pets policy in place, you can talk to the tenant in detail about the number or kinds of pets allowed in your particular property and the extra security deposits that you might require from them in case of any damage caused by their furry friends.
Do You Have Any Questions?
This is the last question to ask a potential tenant. It gives them a chance to raise any queries or concerns that they might like to ask before finalising an agreement. Remember, if a tenant has passed your screening process based on the above questions, then you should also respond to their questions clearly and satisfactorily in order to maintain a smooth landlord-tenant relationship for the future.
Using a tenant screening process to vet out the right candidates for your rental property and having a list of questions to ask a potential tenant in hand can help you find the perfect renter for your property. It is recommended that you note down the answers given by a potential tenant and have them sign the document as proof that all the information they have provided is accurate and true.
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