Do you own rental properties?
If so, you know, first-hand, the challenge of finding qualified tenants whom you can trust to live in your properties.
As professional Alabama rental managers, we help our owner clients find the right tenants and screen all potential tenants before placing them in a rental home. Doing this over the years has given us knowledge of the best questions to ask – and why to ask them.
Here’s are 8 questions you as the landlord should be asking your tenants:
One of the first questions you should always ask potential tenants is what date they would ideally like to move in. Asking for a move-in date will help you quickly identify whether or not you are a good fit for one another. Maybe, you have a vacancy that requires an immediate filling, but the applicant cannot move in for a month or longer. In this circumstance, you might want to consider moving on to another qualified candidate.
Also, having an ideal move-in date from your potential tenant will help provide you with a timeline. If the rental property or unit requires any maintenance or repair, you’ll be able to determine whether or not it can be fixed up in time.
Renters don’t always understand that there are legal limits on how many people can occupy a living space. One way to make this clear is by asking how many people they plan on living with at your property early on in the application process. Overcrowding in residence can pose both a health and safety risk.
In addition to legal limitations, generally speaking, the fewer people occupying your property, the minor wear and tear it will exhibit through the rental period.
Even if you listed your property as not allowing pets, don’t assume this means your potential tenants paid notice. Always make sure to ask this question early on in the screening process to save you both the trouble of getting further down the application process just to find out it won’t work out.
If you allow pets, this could be an excellent time to discuss the terms as written in your rental agreement. If you have a pet deposit, make sure they are aware that this is a separate deposit and explain to them its purpose. Any additional monthly or annual pet fees should be clarified and agreed upon at this time as well.
It might seem like a simple question, but the answers can be illuminating. You don’t want tenants who have a history of being evicted or tenants who didn’t get along well with their neighbors or landlords. These are red flags that can be costly down the road, so you want to ensure the person has good, understandable reasons for moving.
Even beyond finding out the answer from the applicant, you’ll want to follow up when performing a landlord reference check. Previous landlords can help shed light on certain situations and typically let you know of any red flags they had experienced with their tenants.
Evictions happen, and while it’s generally not a good sign, sometimes there are mitigating circumstances. You’ll never know unless you ask, so it is good to get that question answered upfront. The person may not be truthful, but either way, you can get a good glimpse into the nature of the potential tenant and see if they would be a good fit from how they answer this question.
Research has shown that prior evictions can be indicative of evictions of the future in individuals. While extenuating circumstances can make an eviction excusable, it’s still worth finding out the reasoning behind it from the source directly.
Evictions are not the only thing you’ll want to be aware of as a potential landlord to a tenant. There are several other circumstances in which tenants break rental agreements, and as a potential landlord, you will want to know as much detail as possible. There are some situations in which a broken lease can be understood, but if the applicant cannot give you sound reasoning, it might be a red flag.
Asking previous landlords questions about their leases with the applicant is another way to determine if they are truthful in their story to you.
Finally, this question helps speak to the potential tenant’s finances, something that could impact their ability to be a responsible, consistent tenant. It is an excellent policy never to allow tenants to stay in a property unless they can pay the first month’s rent plus a security deposit. There shouldn’t be any exceptions.
A security deposit is there to protect your property in the event of damage or some other situation. You don’t want a potential tenant to owe money before they move in. Inquire as to their financial status before agreeing to rent the property to them.
It’s always important to wrap up your questions by asking applicants if they have any questions for you. Remember that the initial screening process can be a helpful tool to both of you in determining whether or not it is a good fit.
Even if the potential tenant answers all of your questions with answers that satisfy you, it is still up to the applicant to decide if your property is a good fit for them as well. If there is something they are unsure of or seems unattractive to them, this allows them to discuss it with you openly. Maybe it is something that you are already working on getting fixed or could be open to improving with their recommendation.
You can avoid all of these questions by asking potential tenants to have professional Alabama rental managers handle the entire process for you. Contact us to learn more about how you can take advantage of our professional services today.
Matthew is the CEO of Evernest. He is a student of the book Good to Great and is passionate about building the best property management company on the planet (and maybe even the universe if Elon Musk will hurry up). You can usually find Matthew at the baseball field with his son, at a dance recital with his daughter, or at his favorite restaurant with his wife, when he’s not in the office. And if you can’t find him in any of those places, it probably means he’s traveling.