After receiving applications from prospective tenants and reviewing their information, you should consider conducting an informal interview with the applicants on your shortlist. You can do this either by phone or in person when they go for the walk-through.
Holding an interview is an important step in the screening process because you get to ask important questions that can help you gain more insight into each applicant, allowing you to separate the good from the bad.
Here are some important questions to help you screen prospective tenants:
1. Why are you moving?
The usual reasons are things like transferring to a new job, a growing family or looking for a bigger home. If they the reasons are eviction or disagreement with a neighbour or former landlord, then this is a red flag.
2. What is the status of your employment?
Finding out what the applicant’s source of income is will let you know of their ability to pay rent on time. Follow up with a question of how long have they been employed in their present job to give you an idea of job stability.
3. How much is your monthly income?
This will tell you whether the person can cover the rent. A good rule to follow is that a tenant’s monthly income should be adequate to cover rent for two and a half months. If there are two earners, take into consideration the combined earnings.
4. Are you paying additional expenses, i.e credit card debts?
The person’s income will give you a general idea of their ability to pay rent, but they might not always be able to pay rent on time if there are other stuffs they are paying for.
5. How many people will reside in the property?
The ideal is a maximum of two people in one bedroom. The fewer people the less wear and tear on your rental property. You also need to follow the fire code that requires only a limited number of people who are allowed to rent and live in an apartment. Health and safety risks are also avoided with fewer people.
6. Do you have any pets?
If you don’t allow pets in your property, it’s best to know upfront, so you don’t waste any more of your time and the applicant’s.
7. Have you been evicted?
You can find this information in a tenancy database, or the person may deny it, but it is still worth asking because life is not black and white. If the answer is “yes”, you are giving the person a fair chance to explain what happened. If they had been down on their luck at one point, the eviction may be just a minor setback in their lives and does not represent their financial capacity now. If they reason is damaged to property or other disruptive behaviour, that puts them in “unsuitable” tenant category.
This is also the perfect time to request for references from the applicant’s employer and former landlord and to ask their permission to conduct a credit and background check on them. Not giving their consent is grounds for you to eliminate them from your prospective tenant pool.
You can learn a lot about an applicant just by asking the right questions and listening to their answers. Based on their responses, you can pre-qualify tenants, identify their expectations and set your requirements.
If you can’t spare the time and effort to deal with tenant applications, think about hiring a property manager. A property manager will take on the responsibility of overseeing your rental property, including the screening of tenants.
Property managers bring with them many benefits, including access to tenancy databases that provide extensive tenancy information and a database of pre-approved tenants who have been deemed suitable. Self-managed landlords do not have these advantages.