Screening is an essential part of finding a great tenant. You can begin the screening process immediately, as soon as a prospective tenant calls to let you know they saw your listing and is interested in the rental. In fact, you can even start the screening process before ever having someone lay eyes on your property listing.
Below are a few tips to follow when pre-screening your prospective tenants:
1. Set the Requirements to Your Standards
Simply setting the rent price will screen out applicants who know they cannot afford your property. Additionally, if you list out your other requirements such as a rental application, credit report, and criminal history check, you’ll turn off the prospects that know they wouldn’t pass your tests.
2. Ask How Many People Will be Living in the Unit
When you are on the phone, you’ll also be able to ask about who will be living in the rental, how long they expect to rent, etc.
There’s no need to show the place if the prospects are four people trying to rent your one-bedroom (most states have a law that says you cannot have more than two people per bedroom) or if they’re only looking for a short term rental and you don’t offer that.
Here are additional questions you should ask your prospective tenant.
1. What’s Your Desired Move in Date?
Tenants begin their apartment search at various times of the year, depending on when their existing lease ends. Before getting into the details of the apartment, it’s important to first establish when they’re looking to move in by.
The reason why is because some tenants can be looking several months in advance to see what’s available and aren’t planning on moving right away, which is something to consider if you’re looking to fill the property as soon as possible.
2. Why Are You Moving?
Although most tenants are simply moving due to not wanting to renew their existing lease, it’s still a great question to ask to better understand their reasoning for moving. Their response can help you gauge if they’re moving for a negative reason — such as being evicted from a property — or if they’re moving to a different location due to a new job.
As a safety measure, you can write down their answers to then compare with what previous landlords share when being asked about their experience with the tenant.
3. Do You Have Pets?
It’s not uncommon for a tenant to own a pet when renting out a property. Prior to looking for tenants, you should determine if you want to allow pets on your property.
If you decided you don’t, then this is a question you’ll want to ask any prospective tenant to ensure no animals enter the premises. On the other hand, if pets are allowed, then you can then ask what type of animal they own, the breed, and any important behavioral issues to be aware of.
4. What Is Your Monthly Income?
The industry standard is typically two to three times the set rent price. Learning more about your tenant’s monthly income can help you determine if they meet your requirements or need a guarantor in order to get approved. You can also request a credit report to better understand an applicant’s financial health and see if they have a strong history of making on-time payments.
5. Can You Provide Landlord and Employer References?
Tenants that have previously rented more than one property should have a landlord reference to provide on a rental application. For first-time tenants, they can provide a personal or credit reference to share information on how they treat other people and their overall reliability.
There may be instances where tenants are unable to provide any references, and if that’s the case, then you can either move forward with other applicants or provide other suggestions you’re willing to accept.
6. How Many People Will be Living in the Apartment?
To avoid dealing with squatters — which are unauthorized tenants in a rental property — you’ll want to know whether or not more than one person will be living in the property. If so, you’ll need to individually screen each tenant that’s listed as a co-signer on the rental application.
This will also be important when collecting rent payments, the security deposit fee, and any other fees since it’ll need to be split between each tenant on the final lease agreement.
7. Do You Smoke?
Smoke of any kind can cause extensive damage to a rental property, all of which can be expensive to fix. As the landlord, you are allowed to implement a no smoking policy, but it’s advised to provide tenants with alternative spots where it is allowed. This can be a backyard or certain feet away from the building.
Asking this question gives you an opportunity to remind any prospective tenant of your policy to ensure no one smokes in your property during the lease term.
8. Are You Okay With Paying an Application Fee?
When screening tenants with Avail, either the landlord or the prospective tenant can cover the $55 fee for the credit, criminal, and eviction report add-ons. Although this is a normal part of the renting process, it’s important to know if they’re okay with covering it. An application fee will also filter out tenants that are serious about renting your property.
9. Are You Looking for a 12-Month Lease Agreement?
There are different types of lease agreements, such as an annual agreement, a month-to-month agreement, or one that ends on a custom date set by the landlord. Ideally, you’ll want a tenant looking to sign a lease agreement with a 12-month lease term. However, if you come across someone looking to sign a shorter lease or prefer a rent-to-own agreement, then this can be something to discuss more in-depth.
3. Pay Close Attention to Their Questions
Let your prospects ask their questions during the phone interview. First, you’ll find out what’s important to them and can make sure to show off the areas of your rental that highlight their wants.
Second, you can figure out whether their priorities are in line with yours. If they’re asking about the location of the closest bars and you’re concerned about noise violations, this might not be a good fit.
Create a Rental Application
If you’ve gone this far with your prospective tenant, you should always allow them to submit a rental application, even if you know they won’t work out. You don’t want it to appear that you’re discriminating and at this point, you’ll want to allow everyone that you’ve already shown the property to go through your usual screening process.