One of the most important responsibilities of a property manager is to fill vacancies with good tenants. Screening and vetting potential renters is incredibly important, and one of the biggest mistakes that unexperienced rental property owners make is not taking it seriously enough. Experienced property managers know that the easiest way to rent to good tenants is to ask the right questions before letting anyone sign a lease.
Below are ten questions that professional property managers such as Martin Feinberg are likely to ask potential tenants. These kinds of questions allow property managers to quickly and confidently identify which tenants are more likely to lead to problems and which are likely to be good and responsible renters.
Question One: When are you planning to move and why?
Sometimes there is a good reason, but generally, property managers should be wary of anyone who is desperate to move in right away. The majority of rental properties require a month’s notice before moving out, so a tenant in a hurry to find a new home could be an irresponsible tenant.
And obviously, any tenant looking to move because of an eviction or trouble with the previous neighbors or landlord needs further consideration.
Question Two: How long have you lived in your current residence?
Tenant turnover is expensive and time-consuming for property manages and owners. This means that reliable tenants who don’t move often are usually a better bet than someone who has lived in six different places in the last year. A short stint in their last home isn’t always a deal breaker, but good property managers will be interested in knowing a perspective tenant’s renting history.
Question Three: What do you do for work and how much do you earn?
Property managers don’t care what potential renters do for work, only that they have stable employment and are making enough to pay rent on time. A good rule of thumb is for perspective tenants (or group of tenants) to earns 2.5x the monthly rent.
Question Four: Will you agree to a credit or background check?
A tenant who agrees to a credit and background check usually has little to hide. For those that don’t, that is an instant red flag that should not be ignored.
Question Five: Can you provide references from past landlords or employers?
The best way for a property manager to check the quality of potential renters is to ask a third party. Be aware though that current landlord references are not always the most trustworthy as a current landlord might give a glowing reference to a bad tenant just to get them out of their hair.
Question Six: Have you ever been evicted?
An answer of yes shouldn’t automatically end the application process. A yes can actually be a good sign that a potential renter is honest, and there could have been extenuating circumstances that are worth considering. A yes is not a great sign but perhaps not as concerning as it first sounds.
Question Seven: Can you produce the deposit and first month’s rent before you move in?
Experienced property managers will almost always take receipt of the security deposit and first month’s rent before a tenant is allowed to move in, no exceptions.
Question Eight: Who will be living at the property?
A property manager has the legal right to know who will be residing at their property. Each type of renter situation—single tenant, a couple, a family, a group of friends—will have their own set of pros and cons. It’s always good for a landlord to know what they are getting into when choosing a tenant. Plus, knowing who will be living at a unit allows the property to make sure that everyone is on the lease.
Question Nine: Do you have pets?
Whether a property manager is prepared to allow pets into the properties they manage or not, knowing what potential renters expect from the beginning is imperative. For managers who have a no pets policy, pet owners are an easy and quick no. For those that allow them, knowing pets are possible, and getting them into the lease, is the best protection against the added risks pet owners bring with them.
Question Ten: Do you have any questions?
Just as property managers are trying to find the right tenant for them, perspective tenants are trying to find the right property manager for their family as well. It’s important for property managers to give tenants the opportunity to ask questions so that they can identify that a property is right for them too.