Decided to talk to all your tenant applicants before you filter them? That's a great idea — but how do you know where to start? Choosing a tenant can be extremely daunting, and if you’re wrong you may live to regret it. You need to consider a number of factors before deciding who stays in your house. Asking a few simple questions can help you weed out your tenants before meeting your list of final candidates.
Most savvy landlords know that pre-screening is an important step in the tenancy process. It can also save you time that you might have otherwise spent on unnecessary meetings that ultimately result in rejection. Here are some great pre-screening phone interview tips for landlords.
Find Out How They Heard About You
The first thing you want to know is how the tenant found out about your rental property. Did they find you through a listing, a signboard, or through friends? If they heard about your vacancy from a signboard or via friends, then they are probably familiar with the neighborhood. This should help you make a judgment call on your applicant. Before doling out any vital information about your property, be sure to find out how the tenant knows about you and what prompted them to choose your property.
Don’t be afraid to ask as many questions as you want — this interview is about them, after all. Pay close attention to their answers and follow your instincts. If you feel good about the tenant, go ahead to the next process — but if you don’t have a good feeling, then nip this prospect in the bud straight away. Plenty of others will come your way that you may feel more comfortable with. Make sure that you do not ask questions contrary to the Federal Housing Laws, though, or you may find yourself in trouble.
Take Note of Their Mannerisms
The way a person talks can speak volumes about their character. Are they respectful and polite, or are they forceful and dominant during the conversation? Notice the tone of their voice and their responses to your questions. Because if you’re unlucky, you might end up harboring a criminal, and you certainly don’t want that. Even if tenants can pay the rent on time, you’ll want someone polite that will be easy to deal with, so be sure to focus in the person’s verbal mannerisms as part of your pre-screening process.
Be Sure About Their Interest Levels
The main factor to consider in a pre-screening interview is whether the potential tenant is really interested in moving, or whether they're just checking their options. This can be a toughie, because few prospective tenants will be absolutely honest about their intentions.
Here’s a secret tip to gauge a prospect’s interest level: Tell them you need time to think it over, and that you’ll call them the next day to schedule a house tour — but then don’t call back. If they are genuinely interested, they will call you back on their own to organize the tour, and you won’t have to worry about entertaining time wasters.
Ask Some Questions and Stay Away From Others
Satisfy your curiosity as much as possible over the phone before inviting potential tenants for a tour. Ask questions about their income, criminal records, background checks, financial situations, and smoking habits. Be sure to stay away from any questions about the tenant's race, sex, nationality, religion, disability, or family status — these areas are considered discriminatory, and screening based on these questions is a violation of federal law. You can be sued if it appears as though you rejected potential tenants based on these factors.
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