Things to ask a Potential Tenant

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Things to ask a Potential Tenant

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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About Anne

Anne dreams of financial independence and is working her way towards it, whilst still enjoying life. She has a penchant for gift giving, which got her started with her first blog, Unique Gifter. She also loves money (who doesn't?) and needed an outlet to discuss it. Her likes? Seafood, figure skating, road cycling and skater shoes.


  1. I’m looking to rent out my property in the next year and I need as much guidance as possible in order to not mess things up!
    Michelle recently posted…I’m Over Your Economic PessimismMy Profile

  2. 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

  3. 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

    • 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.

  4. 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

    • 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!

  5. These are great questions. I was asked pretty much all of them when I rented my most recent apartment. I’ll have to keep these in mind for when I might have to rent out our current rental unit.
    Alicia recently posted…Sometimes Things Line Up…My Profile

  6. These are all great questions. We go back and forth about whether or not we want to become landlords. I’m not sure if it’s for me, I tend to believe anything and everything, and I would probably be a very gullible landlord haha!
    Michelle recently posted…$14,937 in July – My Highest Income MonthMy Profile

    • 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.

  7. All great questions to ask as a landlord. The landlords we have had previously never asked us any of these, save for maybe the question of why we were leaving our last place. I think it’s a lot like an interview and people generally know not to be honest if they had an experience that would reflect poorly on them.
    Daisy @ Prairie Eco Thrifter recently posted…The Value of Company: Deposits and WithdrawalsMy Profile

  8. In New York, the rental market is so crazy, no one ever takes time to have thoughtful conversations. They sign their leases ASAP.
    Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life recently posted…Turning 28: Abandoning Self-Imposed DeadlinesMy Profile

  9. I love the idea of making it a back and forth conversation. My guess is it yields more honest answers that way.
    Femme @ femmefrugality recently posted…Comment on An Emotional Spending Spree That Ended in Cadmium Trash by Anne @ Money PropellerMy Profile

    • 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.

  10. Good questions, and make sense. I realize that as a landlord you also want to get great tenants who don’t make much fuss and stay for quite a while. Official background checking is also important.
    Suburban Finance recently posted…Would You Pay For Tuition With Credit Cards?My Profile

  11. We have been landlords for 8 years now, and we’ve learned to ask all kinds of questions! I agree it’s important to know where people are coming from and why.
    Holly@ClubThrifty recently posted…My Upcoming Trips with Credit Card Rewards, Part OneMy Profile

  12. Nice reverse psychology on the first question. I ask a similar question when I interview new candidates; mostly just to see how they paint their last employer.
    MMD recently posted…Niche Website Update 20 – Copying My Competition – Plus $1,226 in IncomeMy Profile

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