How to Interview a Potential Tenant

Tenants don’t stick around forever, which means homeowners looking to rent out their houses need to know how the process of screening tenants works.

If you’re one of these people, looking to venture into the world of real estate investment, here’s how to figure out what tenants you should look for and how to go about screening them.

What Makes a Tenant Great

Though you obviously won’t know if a tenant’s good or not until they’ve lived in your unit for a bit, a lot of times you’ll be able to see signs that they could be a great tenant. For example, good tenants are the ones that read the lease and follow it, always pay their rent, are respectful of the property and other tenants, and don’t cause unnecessary problems.

You can get a good sense if a potential tenant is going to be a great one if they show these types of traits. They probably ask you very specific questions, showing you they read up on the property, or they always close their emails to you with a polite “thank you for your time.” Whatever they do, always consider screening tenants of this nature because they’ll most likely end up being easy to deal with.

Where Should Screening Take Place

Now that you know what some of the best tenants look like, how are you going to actually screen them? You’ve got lots of technological options, like the phone or email, or you could go the good old-fashioned way and meet them in person at a coffee shop or the rental unit itself.

Your best bet is to start by conducting a phone interview; it can save you the time and hassle of meeting them in-person which could be problematic if they don’t show up. Phone interviews also beat email or forms because you can get a better grasp of who they are when you talk to them directly.

Key Questions to Ask

When you’re screening tenants, it’s vital you ask them some pointed questions so you have a better idea of their situation. Though many of these are typical, like “When do you need to move?”, some questions are really important for gauging the quality of your prospective tenant. Make sure to ask them the following:

- Why are you moving?

- What is your monthly income?

- Can you provide a reference from a former landlord or employer?

All of these questions and more will help reveal the character and reliability of your potential tenants.

Key Documents/Records to Collect & Verify

The next step in screening tenants is making sure you’ve got all the paperwork lined up. Yes, it can be annoying, but you can’t forget to collect this information from your potential tenants, because it’ll help you determine if they’re stable or not:

- Record of employment, pay stub

- Criminal record/sex offender

- Social security number

Tenants who easily cough up this information shouldn’t be ones you’ll have problems with. But the ones who hesitate to give you these records or who hand over bad records, well, they won’t finish the screening process.

DIY v. Professional

Many property owners aren’t afraid of screening tenants themselves. If you’re one of these, you just need to trust your gut and investigate potential tenants until you’re satisfied that they can be your new renters.

However, if you’re wary of this entire process (or you’re just as bad at remembering to collect all the paperwork and information), you can hire an outside professional to help you. With this method of screening tenants, you can be assured of the professional’s experience and comprehensiveness, and you won’t have to worry about losing or forgetting important documents and information.

In all property management, tenants come and go on a regular basis. It’s your job to make sure you understand and implement the steps of screening tenants so that you can continue to fill your rental units with the best people possible.

What was your best experience while screening tenants? Did you follow the process above, or alter it a bit?

photo credit: Darwin Bell via photopin cc