While we’ve previously stated the importance of consulting your applicants’ references in addition to collecting tenant verification reports, the calls to those references are meaningless without asking the right questions.
How can you get to know your applicants in a short phone call to them or their references? We’ve come up with some foolproof questions to get a ton of information in a short amount of time.
You can quickly tell if an applicant is worth further screening by asking just a few tenant screening questions. Before you send them a LeaseLink™ to an online rental application, ask your applicant these questions. However, you should always consider that applicants will be biased, so sometimes it is best to take the answers with a grain of salt.
- Why is this property a good place for you to live in? You can tell if they are serious about applying by asking this question. If they don’t have a valid reason that they can come up with on the spot, chances are they are a lookie-loo who isn’t really serious.
- Can I contact your current and previous landlords and employers? Most online rental applications have a section for references. If they have any objections to contacting references, you know that they have something to hide. Strongly consider moving to a different candidate if they are hesitant to allow you to contact references.
- Describe your current living situation: While this may not be a question per se, knowing about your tenant’s dynamic with their landlord/roommates can give you a glimpse of what they’ll be like if they move to a different property. You should automatically grow cautious if they are being evicted or have a terrible relationship with their landlord.
A previous landlord is one of the most important sources of information during the tenant verification process. Get the contact information of as many previous landlords as possible from the online rental application they filled out.
Talking to multiple landlords is important in order get the most information on your applicants as possible.
- How much is the tenant paying for rent? : You should also ask your tenant this question, and see if the numbers match. If they don’t, the tenant may be lying to you.
- What is your relationship like with the tenant? : If the tenant mentioned that he or she doesn’t get along with the landlord, the landlord can give you their perspective as to why the relationship is less than stellar.
- Has there ever been any trouble with rent payment? : This is obviously an important question. If there have been problems, find out why. It could be a simple communication error rather than the tenant’s financial inability to pay.
- Did you ever consider evicting the tenant? : While most good tenant verification reports include an eviction history, they do not mention if they were threatened to be evicted, and in some states evictions can be cleared off a tenant’s record if the case remains open for a certain amount of time.
Rent costs money. Jobs pay money. No job, no money. While that may not be a 100 percent foolproof statement, job security and financial stability often go hand in hand. You can be at ease if you know that your applicant is a reliable worker that has a future in whatever industry they are a part of.
- On a scale of 1-10, how would you grade the tenant’s responsibility? : You can use different attributes as well, such as reliability, temperament, ability to work with others, etc.
- Does the tenant have a problem showing up to work on time? : This plays into the tenant’s responsibility. If they can’t show up to work on time, not only is their job security at risk, but they may have problems with getting things done on time (like paying rent).
- What is the tenant’s monthly salary? : If their salary isn’t enough to pay the rent, you should probably move on to a different candidate. However, you should make sure that they don’t have multiple part-time jobs. Ask the tenant this question as well and see if everything adds up.
You have to be careful with personal references, because, like the tenant, they can be biased. Instead of asking opinion-based tenant verification questions, you should ask fact-based ones.
- Does the tenant smoke? You can say that the property allows smoking (even if it doesn’t) so you can get a more unbiased answer.
- What does the tenant do in their spare time? A person’s hobbies can tell you a lot about them.
- How would you describe the tenant’s current living space? While this may be opinion-based, it is still a good question to see if the tenant is messy or could be a risk for property damage.
In addition to all of these questions, you can find more valuable information from the questions listed on an online rental application. As a real estate agent, it is important to get information from as many sources as you can.