When it comes to finding the right tenant for your rental, there are no guarantees that you will find the best tenant every time. By asking a few key questions, you can eliminate possible headaches prior to finalizing a rental agreement. Consider these seven questions the next time you speak with a prospective tenant.
1. Do you have any references?
Ask for references from their employer and previous landlords. Speaking with their employer will verify that they have a job and a steady income. Contacting previous landlords will help you determine if they pay their rent on time or if they were the type of tenant to cause problems.
2. Will you agree to a background and/or credit check?
A prospective tenant will have to agree to the check before you can have it done. Some people will balk at the idea of the check, even if they have nothing to hide. Just remember, it's better to be safe than sorry.
3. What is your monthly income?
Housing costs, like rent, are considered "affordable" when the total is 30 percent of their monthly income. If the housing costs consume more than 30 percent, there's a good chance that tenant may struggle to pay the rent or utilities in any given month and can't afford to rent from you.
4. Do you have pets?
Before you rent, it's best to decide what your pet policy will be for your property. If you aren't going to allow pets, asking this question weeds out pet owners. If you're going to allow pets, make sure you have a pet policy in writing so that all parties understand the deposit required, as well as any rules and regulations. Remember, service animals are not pets and are not subject to a pet policy.
5. When do you want to move in?
There are a few decisions to make based on the answer to this question. You need to determine if you'll have enough time to prepare your rental for new tenants. You'll also want to consider what to do if they want the move-in date to be later than you planned: Will you hold the rental for them or require a prorated rent for a partial amount of time?
6. What are you reasons for moving?
There's a good chance you'll receive a very mundane and typical answer to this question. Maybe they need more or less space. Maybe they've moved for a new job. The reasons are endless. Listen, however, for red flags such as a previous eviction or problems with their former landlords. Depending on the answer you receive, you may need to steer clear and move on to the next prospective tenant.
7. How many people will be living with you?
Decide if you're going to have a policy in place for the amount of people you will allow to live in your rental property. Check with your state to determine if there are already laws restricting the amount of people who can lease or rent a property. Many states place a limit of two people per bedroom on a lease. Realize that the more people in a home, the more natural (and not-so-natural) wear and tear your property will experience. If parking is at a premium, you may need to restrict the number of vehicles that can be parked at the property that may be affected by the amount of people living in the property.
It may not be easy to ask some of these questions, but collecting this information may be all that stands between you and the renter from hell. To make the process easier, consider a rental application that asks all of these questions, plus any other information you may need or want to know about your future tenants.
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