Renting to a new tenant can be an exciting — but scary — undertaking, so one of the best ways to ensure that you're renting to someone reputable and trustworthy is by checking with their previous landlords. Ensure that your potential renters include contact information of at least one prior landlord on their application so you can discuss their history. Use these tips to decide what questions you should ask of previous landlords.
1. What was their address and how much rent did they pay?
On their rental application, you should always ask an applicant for their rental history. This should include both the addresses at which they previously rented and how much they paid in rent there. When a potential tenant gives you the amount of rent they paid at their previous address, you'll also want to make sure that the tenant has given you honest, accurate information. This can help you determine whether they are honest and trustworthy, as well as if they are a financially viable candidate to live in your rental.
2. Did they pay rent on time?
One of the most important pieces of information you can learn from previous landlords is if the tenant paid their rent regularly and on time. You want to rent to someone who is financially responsible and who you can depend on to meet his or her rent obligations. You should only rent to tenants whose previous landlords report that they were dependable and trustworthy with rent. Consider creating your own guidelines about how many times an applicant can have paid rent late in order to approve them, since paying late once or twice is a different thing than paying late habitually. If they have paid late, you may also take into account how long they were tenants at that property. If they are long-term tenants and have paid late once it will weigh differently than a tenant that pays late once in a year-long lease.
3. Were there any complaints about them?
Particularly if you have multiple units in one building, you'll want to ask a prior landlord if any other tenants ever made complaints about the applicants. These complaints could be for things like noise, cleanliness, pests, rudeness, etc. You want to ensure that you're renting to someone who will be a good member of the community and not cause unnecessary trouble as a tenant. If there were complaints filed, ask the landlord for a bit of background, since complaints (particularly rare ones) are not always immediate indicators of a bad tenant (they are the result often a bad relationship between two tenants).
4. Did they take care of your property?
When you rent to a tenant, you entrust your property to their care. So, one of the most important questions you should ask prior landlords is if the tenants took care of their property. For example, ask if there was damage done to the apartment or if the landlord had to pay for cleaning the apartment after the tenant left. You should also ask if the tenant asked for repairs regularly during their tenancy, since regular repairs can mean that tenants were careless with the property.
5. Would you rent to them again?
This is a general questions that can help you determine if the applicant will be a good tenant. After all, if a previous landlord is willing to trust a tenant, then that tenant will likely be a good one for you, as well.
Renting your space to a person you don't know can be daunting, but with a little legwork and just a few questions, finding a tenant you can trust and depend on can be an easy and rewarding experience!
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