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10 Questions You Should Always Ask a Potential Tenant

March 7th, 2018 |

Being a landlord doesn’t have to feel like a second job. It can be easy if you choose the right tenant, but how do you know who the right tenant really is? Professionally screening a potential tenant will give you information on criminal history, credit history, and whether or not that tenant has been through an eviction, but that doesn’t tell you everything you need to know. Make use of these 10 questions when interviewing potential tenants to gain a better understanding of whether you should rent to them or not.

1. Have you ever had a dispute with a previous landlord?

If the answer is “yes,” then that’s a red flag. But don’t toss out the application just yet. This answer needs some explaining. Have there been multiple disputes with multiple landlords? What were the disputes about? What has happened in the past is a good indicator of what will happen in the future so you can avoid the headache of dealing with difficult tenants.

2. Have you ever had a dispute with a neighbor?

Hopefully you won’t see much of your tenants, but the neighbors will. You want to be sure that their relationship is civil, or else you will be the one receiving complaints.

3. May I call your references?

These references should be previous landlords. “Yes” is the only acceptable answer to this question and you should definitely call to ask if they maintained the home, paid rent on time, and got along with neighbors.

4. Do you plan on getting any pets?

A cat or dog may not be in the tenant’s life right now, but it doesn’t mean it won’t be part of his or her future. If you don’t allow pets, make it clear that a pet in the house is in violation of the lease. If you do allow pets, make sure the tenant knows how many are allowed and that this includes not only cats and dogs, but birds, snakes, fish, etc.

5. Are you taking a vacation during the lease term?

Tenants often forget to notify their landlords when they go on vacation, but it’s incredibly important. A leak in a vacant house can cause catastrophic amounts of damage. Make sure your tenant knows to notify you so you can check on the property while he or she is gone.

6. Do you prefer to pay rent by check or by direct deposit?

A tenant that would rather pay by check every month is a tenant that is not confident in the availability of funds to pay said rent.

7. How often do you change the air filter in the HVAC?

You can’t expect your tenant to possess any kind of home improvement skills, but they should know how to change an air filter, unclog a toilet, etc. If the answer is 6 months, that’s a problem. If you think the tenant is lying, follow up by asking which way the arrows on the air filter point. They always face towards the system, because that’s the way the air flows. Regardless of what your tenant tells you, do yourself a favor and buy a year’s supply of filters for the tenant before he or she moves in.

8. How long have you lived in the area and how long do you plan on staying?

Try to get a sense of whether the tenant moves around a lot or is relatively stationary. A tenant that rambles around the country is more likely to just pick up and leave one day. Make sure not to ask what country he or she was born in, as national origin is a protected class.

9. When would you like to move in?

Some tenants search for a home months in advance of their current lease expiring. If the property is vacant, you may not want to wait that long.

10. Why are you leaving your current residence?

The answer to this question should be more about why they like your property and less about why they don’t like where they are now.

Your time is too valuable to spend managing properties and keeping up with tenants. R.H. Blanchard has over 15 years of property management experience in the Greater Boston & North Shore areas. Contact us today and take the stress out of property management!