The coronavirus pandemic hardly left any sector of the economy untouched, and the housing market is no exception. With soaring housing prices, low inventory, and bidding wars common in many locations, Americans who would normally buy are becoming tenants.
Whether you already own property that you are thinking about renting or you are considering purchasing a rental property, becoming a landlord is often thought of as a solid investment and a good way to make some extra income and build equity.
However, the difference between having a great experience as a landlord and a terrible one often comes down to the tenants you rent your property out to. For this reason, it’s important to carefully screen your tenants before leasing a property to them.
Are you wondering what questions you should ask when you’re finding a tenant? Let’s take a look at eight questions that can help you find the most reliable renters for your property.
1. Why Are You Looking to Move and When Are You Able to Move In?
When leasing a property, it’s a good idea to ask why prospective tenants are looking to move. They might be looking for more space or to live closer to their new job. You can also ask how long they’ve been in their current residence, which allows you to get a sense of how long-term they will be.
You’ll also want to find out when they are planning on moving in so you can reduce the amount of time the property is vacant.
2. What’s Your Monthly Income?
One of the classic landlord-to-tenant questions is about income and employment. It’s important that your tenant will be able to pay their rent on time. The general rule of thumb is that a renter should spend, at a maximum, 30% of their income on their rent.
3. Can I Contact Your Employer and Former Landlords?
Asking for references can help ensure that you find a reliable tenant. You can ask their former landlords a number of questions, including:
- Did they pay rent on time?
- Were they reliable?
- Would you choose them as a tenant again?
As far as employers go, it can be good to contact them and make sure that they do, in fact, work for the company they say they do.
4. Who Will Be Living in the House?
There are laws in some states and cities about the number of occupants per bedroom in the house. Make sure you’re aware of your local laws before renting a home out to too many people.
(Are you wondering what you should include in the lease before renting out your property? Check out these six things to include in your rental agreements.)
5. Do You Have Any Pets?
Some landlords choose to have a no-pets policy, while others might allow only cats or only dogs. Others choose to have a weight limit for dogs or a number of pets that is allowed.
Check-in with prospective tenants about pets to see if they will be able to abide by your existing policy.
6. Will You Agree to a Credit Check and Background Check?
These days, it is common for landlords to run both credit checks and background checks on applicants. If they say no to this question, you can remove them from your pool of potential renters. It’s important to get written permission from renters when they apply, as it isn’t enough to just have verbal confirmation.
7. Does Anyone In Your Household Smoke?
Smoke can cause damage to property. This means many landlords have a no-smoking policy, allowing them to deny applicants if they do smoke.
8. Do You Have Any Questions?
It’s always good to give prospective renters the opportunity to ask any questions they might have. These might be questions about the property, the application process, your policies, or the location. It is beneficial to both the landlord and the tenants to have open and honest communication so that you can both find the best fit.
Questions You Aren’t Allowed to Ask When Leasing a Property
Because of fair housing laws, there are a number of questions that you aren’t allowed to ask. Questions regarding protected classes like color, race, national origin, religion, familial status, sex, and disability are off the table. There also might be additional protections to renters at the state and local levels.
Some specific questions you can’t ask as a part of the pre-screening process include:
- Do you have children?
- Where were you born?
- Are you married or engaged?
- Have you ever been charged with a crime or arrested?
- How old are you?
- Do you have an emotional support or service animal?
- Can I get your bank balance?
- Do you need to know about the local church, mosque, or temple?
A number of localities and states have enacted protections against discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. These are not considered protected classes under the Fair Housing Act. However, there is an Equal Access Rule which does protect against discrimination based on gender nonconformity.
Are You Looking For a Find a Tenant Service?
When you purchase a rental property, you are signing on for a lot of responsibilities. From finding a tenant to maintenance, many landlords find that the income isn’t quite as passive as they hoped. That problem can be solved by hiring a property management service, however, who can take care of tenant screening and leasing, rent collection, maintenance, and more.
Are you interested in hiring a Memphis property management service? If so, contact us today!