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10 Questions to Ask When Screening Potential Renters

10 Questions to Ask When Screening Potential Renters

The only true way to know if the people moving into your Niceville, Florida rental are the best fit is by screening them. To make sure you treat all applicants fairly, and to simplify the process, you should make a list of questions to ask the potential tenants. 

These screening questions can tell a lot about the tenants such as if they have the ability to pay on time, their history of being a renter, and if they’ve complied with their previous lease agreements. The questions you ask your potential Niceville renters should reflect things about their rental history, how they’ll care for the property, and their income. Here is a list of 10 questions to ask potential renters when doing the screening process:

Why are you moving?

The majority of renters have a valid reason for moving. By asking this question, you can gain insight into their rental history. Some renters just want a change, others need more space, and others deal with cost issues. It could also uncover past issues such as evictions or breaking a lease.

Have you been at your current residence long?

This is a question you should ask early in your screening. It should give you an awareness of the potential tenant’s dependability as a renter. It will give you something to think about if they say they move every year or if they have had to cut a lease short. Ideally, you would like to have a tenant who would rent for the long term instead of having to fill a vacancy year after year with the possibility of losing out on rental income as your rental sits unfilled.   

Have you ever violated a lease or been evicted?

Someone who has a history of breaking leases or getting evicted is not a good potential tenant. By asking if they have a history of these things, it gives them the ability to state their case. They might have lost their job or had other financial hardships but are now in a much more stable place financially. Something could have happened unexpectedly with their family that was out of their hands or a different unanticipated event could have taken place. Whatever their answer may be, it is wise to still talk to their previous landlords.

What is your monthly income?

As a property manager, you are allowed to ask for pay stubs and contact information for their current employer. You are also allowed to ask to do a credit history report. These are important to ask for because it ensures that not only can they afford to pay the rent, but that they can do so on time. Some states don’t allow you to ask exactly how they earn their income or what their job is, but only how much they make. Another way to get this information is by asking for bank statements.

Will your past landlords and employers mind if I call them?

Contacting the potential tenant’s current employer and previous/current landlords will give you the information you need in terms of rental history and income. Feel free to ask the landlords if they’ve paid on time, how long they’ve been renting from them, if they were reliable, and if they’d rent to them again. Feel free to ask their employers how long they’ve worked at the company, that they are in fact currently employed there, and how much they earn. 

How many people will be living in the home?

As the property owner, you have the right to know how many people will be living in your rental property. Some states set laws regarding occupancy limits for a rental property and some require the property to have a certain number of bedrooms per person. It’s a good idea to know exactly who will be on the lease. You have to be careful not to violate the fair housing rules by asking questions about their family situations such as how many children they have and the relation of the tenants. 

Are you a smoker?

As the owner or property manager of the rental, you have every right to set a no-smoking policy. Smoking is considered a source of property damage so be mindful of letting them know about your policy and also place it in the lease agreement. 

Do you own any animals?

A large number of people and households have pets now, so by having a no pets policy, you’ll be reducing the number of potential tenant possibilities. But this policy is completely up to you. If you choose to allow pets, you should set conditions and they should be added to the lease. If you’ll charge a deposit for pets, charge a monthly pet rent, and the size and type of pets allowed should all be included in a pet policy part of the lease. Fair Housing laws prohibit you from denying service or emotional support animals. If a potential tenant has one, feel free to ask for the proper documentation regarding the animal. 

Do you agree to a credit and background check?

If your potential tenants agree to a credit and background check, you need to make sure you get it in writing. If they refuse these checks, know that you do not have to rent to them. Ask the potential tenants if there is anything you should be aware of before running the checks. This will give them the ability to explain what might be found and explain what they are doing to improve these past mistakes. If they have committed a crime or have been arrested, you cannot deny them unless the crime committed could possibly put you, others in the tenant’s household, your property or the neighborhood at risk. The crimes that should be of note are violent crimes, arson, illegal selling or the making of drugs, or burglary. 

How soon are you looking to move in?

A good match would be someone who is looking to move in immediately if you have an immediate opening. If the potential renter isn’t looking to move in for several more months and you need to fill the property immediately, they wouldn’t be the perfect match for you. So knowing their timeframe will help you know that you’re on the same page as your potential renter. Once you have found that good match, let them know about all fees you charge, the security deposit cost and when it’s due, and if they’ll be able to cover all costs at the time of signing the lease. 

These are questions you can not ask tenants

There are several topics that you should be mindful about and not bring up with your potential renters because of the Fair Housing Act. The Fair Housing Act prohibits you from discriminating against anyone because of religion, national origin, race, sex, disability, and color. Some states even include sexual orientation or marital status in this law. Here are some subject matters that you should stay away from while asking questions:

  • How many children they have, where their children go to school, their ages and gender
  • If they have ever needed and received public assistance
  • How many and what languages they speak
  • If they have ever been arrested 
  • Their nationality/race
  • If they were born in this country
  • What religion they consider themselves to be
  • If they have a disability and whether it requires them to have a service animal

Composing a general list of questions to ask every one of your potential renters will safeguard you so that you are being as fair as possible to everyone applying for the property. These questions will help you learn more about their monthly income and rental history which will help you choose the most likely applicant that will take care of your property and pay their rent on time. 

Don’t want to deal with the stress of picking your next potential renter? Let Sound Choice handle it!

If you’d like some help from our team of professionals at Sound Choice Real Estate please Click Here or give us a call at 850-389-8533 to Contact Us.

Sound Choice offers full-service property management in Niceville, Destin, Crestview, Fort Walton Beach and the surrounding areas. We are dedicated to providing a maximum return on your investment and eliminating hassle and stress.

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