Screening your Tenants is one of the most crucial aspects of your “job” as a landlord. One of the worst things that can happen to you as a landlord is to rent out your property to a bad tenant.
The situation can be avoided if you follow a fair process of screening potential tenancy applications, and interviewing potential tenants in an unbiased way.
What written Material should you receive from the Tenants?
These three parts of information should be present with you as a landlord at the very least:
- Criminal history (checked through a record)
- Credit Report (Authorized)
- Application for tenancy
When should you screen a potential Tenant?
Contrary to popular belief, you should not screen the tenant after the tenant completes the application, or just before the lease is signed. At this point most of the prerequisites are complete and the deal is quickly moving on to finalization, so the screening process will be little or no use. You should do it as soon as you get a potential tenant in your radar; for instance when they drop you a personal message, email or phone call. If you are not familiar with the tenant, screening process is crucial to ensure you are trusting your property to a reliable temporary owner.
What questions to ask and Why?
1. Why are you moving?
This question may seem like you’re invading the privacy of your tenant, but you’re not. In fact you are just securing yourself from unwanted dangers. The answers that the prospective tenant gives can unearth the details and pull up warning signs that you need to be aware of. You never know of the type of background your tenant has and what situation they are going through.
If the tenant has had a bad relationship with their previous landlord(s), that will be a warning sign. People often bring their baggage with them when they are in tight financial or personal situation so you need to be wary of that. “Safe” tenants who are financially stable will not display red flags to the landlord during the screening process and stand a better chance at getting the house or apartment on rent.
2. What’s your Monthly income?
The main objective of the landlord here is to find out if the tenant will be able to pay their rent and manage his expenses on time without causing delays in making payments. A credit report will later legitimize the claims that the prospective tenants are making. A landlord can easily judge the affordability of the tenant and whether the tenant will be able to make the necessary rental payments on time.
Here is something you can do: ask if the tenant can have the first month’s rent and the security deposit ready on signing if the lease. This is just to confirm that the tenant is telling the truth before the landlord gets an official credit report from the tenant.
3. Can you submit a rental application in writing (skip tenancy at will) and undergo background and credit checks for it?
Tenants who are serious about renting the property will not give it a second thought and respond with a resounding affirmative. Remove the tenant’s name from the list of prospective tenants if they don’t consent to it. It means they have bad credit or are trying to hide other issues.
If they object because they think you’re being unfair, explain to them politely that it is part of your screening process and that you (as a landlord) are putting all tenants through the same process. Ask about any evictions that the tenant has had in the past; evictions are highly stressful and take place over a few months to almost a year. A credit report will show if and when the tenants faced problems and whether the credit problems were recent or can be considered irrelevant.
4. Can you provide references from the last landlord and your current employer?
References are an integral part of the screening process, especially if the tenants have been staying with a landlord previously. Previous landlords can provide the answers to the questions that you need and many questions that may have skipped your mind when you came up with the screening process for tenants. But remember not to be biased. If the tenant has gone through or is going through an eviction, you, you need to know, so consider asking previous landlords for references. A reference from the current employer will let you determine the financial health status of the prospective tenant.
5. Can I get an Estimate Date of when you will move in?
This question is like one of those trick questions in an interview like “what salary do you expect to get here?” It shows the landlords if their tenants are good planners and that their plans coincide with the landlord’s needs. If the tenant answers “three months”, the landlord will reject the tenant. If they answer “in a week’s time,” the landlord will reject the offer, again. This is because the seriousness of the tenant is reflected in both these answers; one is not planning well enough and the other is lax. Usually a time of thirty days is enough for a landlord to screen through tenants and avoid the stresses of searching for a tenant at the last minute.
6. How many people will move in with you?
Towards the final leg of the screening process, a landlord should ask how many people will be moving in with the tenant to have a rough estimate of the amount of wear and tear the building or house will face, for the period that it is rented. The lease, rent or security deposit will need to be altered accordingly to accommodate the changes. Furthermore, the number of people will have to be restricted according to the housing and occupation laws.
Pets are also an important consideration factor for the landlord when deciding to hire a tenant. Pets usually mean clawed out furniture, carpets, walls and sofas, leading to a higher cost of repair and regular maintenance. This issue needs to be addressed earlier.
If you need more information on how to get the ideal tenant for your property or you are a tenant yourself, searching for the ideal landlord in Portland, Maine, contact Aquarius Property Management.