Tenant screening is one of the most important things that Landlords do because it ensures that you’re only handing over possession of your property to qualified Tenants. A good Tenant screening process includes a Rental Application, a credit report, and a nationwide background report. In addition, Landlords should have a tenant interview for their applicants and their references. When done correctly, these interviews can help paint a better overall picture of the Applicant and give Landlords key information that they need in the selection process. To get the most out of these interviews, it’s important to come prepared.
Tenant Interview Checklist
Talking with the Applicant on the phone or in person is an important part of the screening process. It’s a chance for you to learn more about them and a chance for them to learn more about the property.
To help make the screening process as efficient as possible, it’s a good idea to have this interview before an Applicant completes the Application and officially begins the screening process. Many times, issues will arise during this interview that make it clear to the Applicant that the property is not a good fit or that their Application will be rejected – for example, their pets are not allowed or the Lease period will not work for them. If this is the case, it’s easier for both parties to realize it as early in the process as possible.
Some Landlords think of this interview as a pre-screening step to help both the Applicant and Landlord get a better sense of whether the Applicant is qualified to rent the property. With that goal in mind, here are questions you should always ask Applicants:
- When do you want to move in? (Note: it’s a red flag if they want to move in tomorrow)
- Do you have pets?
- How many proposed occupants are there?
- Do you currently have the complete security deposit and first month’s rent?
- How long have you lived at your current address?
- Why are you moving?
- What is your monthly income?
- Do you or any proposed occupants smoke?
- How many parking spaces would you need?
- Do you think your current Landlord will give you a good reference?
- Is there anything I should know before running a background check?
- Have you ever been evicted?
- Are you willing to sign a 1-year Lease?
- Do you have any questions about the property or screening process?
Reference Interview Checklist
Once an Applicant has completed the Application and officially begun the screening process, it’s important for Landlords to contact references. To facilitate this, the Rental Application should ask Applicants for the contact information of their current and previous Landlord and their employer. Additionally, it should include authorization for the Landlord to contact these individuals.
These interviews can be one of the most helpful parts of the screening process, but only if you ask the right questions.
You should always ask prior Landlords if the Applicant:
- Has ever been late with rent; if so, how many times?
- Currently, owes any back rent; if so, how much?
- Has ever received a notice to vacate or a notice to quit; if so, why?
- Has ever been evicted
- Has ever been the source of complaints or concerns
- Left relationship with a landlord in good standing
- Caused any damage to the property
- Left the property in good condition
Besides talking with prior Landlords, it’s important to talk with the Applicant’s current employer to confirm employment and income and to get a sense of how the Applicant performs at work.
Here are some key topics to cover when talking with an Applicant’s employer:
- Confirm employment and position (this should also be done with an Employment Verification form)
- Verify income
- Ask the type of position the Applicant has – for example, trial, contract, seasonal
- Confirm the date the Applicant was hired
- In addition to verifying this key information, ask about the Applicant’s work habits:
- Is the Applicant on time to work?
- Does the Applicant regularly miss work?
- On average, how many hours per week does the Applicant work?
- Does the Applicant have any issues or problems with co-workers?
- Do you like working with the Applicant?
- Has the Applicant ever been reprimanded?
The importance of Tenant Screening cannot be overemphasized. It’s crucial to ensure that Landlords get the most out of their rental property and their experience as a Landlord.