Important Questions to Ask Potential Tenants


Important Questions to Ask Potential Tenants

Important Questions to Ask Potential Tenants

Fail to ask prospective tenants the right questions and you could end up with headaches from late or unpaid rent or lease-busting improper uses of your rental property. Ask the wrong questions and you can end up in court, accused of unlawful housing discrimination. Learn important questions to ask potential tenants, and which questions you should never ask.

When a prospective tenant contacts you in response to a listing, make sure to ask the following:

  • How long have you lived in your current home? – tenants who move every year will probably keep doing so
  • Why are you moving? – most potential tenants will mention outgrowing their place or taking a new job. Checking with past landlords should turn up evictions or failure to pay rent
  • What is your monthly income? – a good rule of thumb is that a tenant should make three times the cost of rent; if you’re serious about moving ahead with the prospect, get pay stubs to confirm income
  • Will you agree to a credit and a background check? – you must get an applicant’s written permission to conduct these checks, and if they don’t agree, that’s a big red flag
  • Can I contact your employer and your former landlords? – a good prospective tenant will not have a problem with this, unless they’re newly employed or renting for the first time
  • Have you ever been evicted? – this gives an applicant a chance to explain what happened and how they’ve taken steps to ensure they won’t put themselves in danger of eviction again
  • How many people will be living with you? – your local zoning might have restrictions about how many people can occupy a unit, or how many bedrooms the unit should have for the number of people living there
  • Do you have enough funds available to pay the security deposit and first month’s rent for this unit? – don’t allow a tenant to move in unless you have received full payment for the security deposit and the first month’s rent
  • When are you planning to move in? – newer renters might not know how much notice they should give their current landlord, so make sure they’re free to move in when they intend to
  • Have you ever broken a lease? – this is another question that gives the tenant a chance to explain ahead of time something that might come up in references from past landlords

Questions you absolutely must not ask are those about:

  • Sex
  • Religion
  • Race
  • Color
  • Disability
  • National origin
  • Family status

Be careful how you word interview questions to ensure that your interviewees don’t misinterpret you as asking about a prohibited area. Seek legal advice before finalizing tenant screening questions, and remember to keep them standard—ask all prospective tenants the same important questions, every time. A local property management company can handle screening for you to ensure compliance and consistency in prospective tenant interviews.

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