While conducting background screening checks on your potential tenants ensures that they’re telling the truth, you can use the initial interview as your first line of defense. One of the best ways to use this interview is to ask purposeful, driven questions to figure out specific characteristics and tendencies of your potential future tenants. Here are four potential tenant problems, and the questions you can ask to avoid them:
1. Your tenants keep breaking the lease or moving out after a short period of time.
You Should Ask: Why are you moving?
Finding out the rationale behind a potential move can help you avoid people who are moving for “trouble” reasons, like getting into fights with neighbors, or those who are simply nomadic. People who are moving to take a new job or who are looking for a bigger space are more likely to stick around than people who had constant roommate spats or who can’t afford the rent.
2. Your tenants lied about how many people would be living there or whether they had a pet.
You Should Ask: What would your (previous landlord/boss/other reference) say about you?
One great way to find out if people are telling the truth is to ask what their reference would say about them – then call the reference, and ask their thoughts. You can compare the answers to ensure that your potential tenant was telling the truth.
3. Your tenants keep paying the rent late or not at all.
You Should Ask: What is your monthly income, and how is it paid?
Some people get paid once a month, others get paid every other week. It’s worth knowing how much a potential tenant makes and when they make it. You can be more sure of getting the rent paid on time when a tenant can clearly afford the monthly rent based on their income. This can also help you identify people who are currently working on contract or doing temp work. While they may not have trouble paying the rent, it’s worth following up with additional questions to make sure they can pay.
4. Your tenants have stopped communicating with you.
You Should Ask: Do you have any questions for me?
A non-communicative tenant isn’t always a problem, but it could mean that they’ll be hesitant to bring problems to you when they arise. By seeing what questions they may have for you, you could be better able to find tenants who will keep a line of communication open with you.
Finding the right tenant for you can involve some work, but it’ll be worth it when you get great tenants who pay the rent on time and obey all the rules you’ve set out. Of course, nothing can replace screening a tenant with a qualified screening service, but these questions can be a great preliminary way to cut out some would-be tenants who might be more trouble than they’re worth.