Things to ask a Potential Tenant

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As a landlord, figuring out what a tenant is REALLY like is difficult.  Here are things to ask a potential tenant to try to get at their true character, without being extremely obvious.

Last week we looked at Things to ask a Landlord, from the point of view of the tenant. If you are a landlord, go take a look and offer up that sort of information. As a landlord, if you do not know the answers to some of them, find out. You could be missing key information that’s keeping you from maximizing your profits. Your tenants might be moving out because it is unbearably hot on the third floor in the summer and some roof ventilation could do wonders for reducing your tenant turnover.

1 – Where are you coming from?

This is a more subtle way to ask “why are you leaving your last place?” The answer to the second question is your goal with this line of conversation. Conversation is an important note. In order to get the answer to the question you are really asking (why are you leaving your last place), you need to be having a back and forth conversation. Moving for size, location, from a new town or to have a pet are all good answers. Other answers that are fine to hear are they wanted to live in a safer neighbourhood, they had loud neighbours with whom they shared a wall or there was a dog down the street that just wouldn’t shut up at night.

Things you don’t want to hear? “We didn’t get along with our neighbours” has the potential to be a bad response because your new tenants could be the ones causing the discord. Another potential warning sign is a response of “our landlord was terrible.” Now, this one can legitimately go two ways. There are some really awful landlords out there. If this is what you hear, you absolutely need to have a lengthy discussion with their previous landlord, to try to determine if these potential tenants are extremely time-consuming and picky, or if the last landlord was terrible. You also need to find out the perspective of the potential tenant and make a judgement call based on the two versions that you hear.

2 – What is the most important thing that you’re looking for in a new place?

This question is to open up the door for a sales pitch for your unit! It is also an opportunity to say “this might not be a great fit for you then” and thus avoid future tenant turnover, complaints and a bad rap amongst your tenant and their friends, and potential future tenants. If they say access to transit is most important to them, you can talk about being a block away so that it’s not too loud, but very accessible. If you know more about the schedule or how busy that part of the transit route is, then jump on in with this information.

3 – What is a deal breaker for you when it comes to a new rental?

Just like the previous question, this one again lets you determine if you will be turning over tenants a lot faster than you need to because your unit – or you – just isn’t a good fit.

4 – How long are you looking to live in this area?

This is pretty straight forward. The lower your tenant turnover, the less likely you are to have costly periods of vacancy, and the less of your own time (or your property manager’s time) you need to devote to looking for tenants, screening tenants, filling in paperwork, showing the unit and potentially disrupting your existing tenants who are moving out.

There are obviously lots of other questions that you ought to be asking potential tenants as a landlord, but these few will help you get a better tenant situation that is more profitable and long lasting.

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  1. says

    These are great questions to ask. I definitely was not asked ANY of them by my landlord. But I’m pretty sure he’s a slumlord. So I’m not surprised. I actually just had to decide if I’m renewing my lease and went with no. I think I’m going to move in with the parents for a few months when my lease is up and try to stockpile some savings.
    Mel @ brokeGIRLrich recently posted…Feeding Someone in Grief: Tales from the TrenchesMy Profile

  2. says

    I don’t have it in me to become a landlord. I get that it can be a great investment and way to grow passive income and wealth – just not for me yet. Maybe one day. Great questions though. I have been lucky with my own rental experiences – I had good landlords.
    May recently posted…Part-time Dog Ownership – A Frugal OptionMy Profile

    • says

      I know that it definitely has its ups and downs. I had decent rental experiences, too. Most of my landlords were companies, not individuals, which I think helped.

  3. says

    Good questions that should get some good information. We rent to 1 coop student per term right now so it’s a select market. We’ve had other inquiries from non coop students but we refuse to take them. There’s a specific calibre and duration of tenant that we are looking for. Eventually, one day we will probably buy a house and rent it so I’m interested in this topic.
    debt debs recently posted…25 Year Anniversary – What’s in a number?My Profile

    • says

      Interesting that you stick to only co-op students. There are a decent number of people in my area who do the same thing. You know they have to get up and go to work, they’re making an okay income, and if you dont’ get along, they’ll be gone in a few months!

    • says

      I don’t think that I would mind it (too much), but I think my spouse would hate it. I also think that *I* think that people aren’t as needy as tenants as they really are.

    • says

      I think so, too. You can really learn a lot via “casual” conversation, mostly because it opens up the dialogue and people will tell you all sorts of interesting things.

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