Here at Netintegrity, we talk a lot about the importance of screening prospective tenants. Knowing more about who you might be renting to is a critical piece of the puzzle and can help you weed out higher-risk candidates. One of the most important steps in the tenant screening process is checking in with prior landlords. Not only should this be a priority whenever you’re trying to fill a vacancy, but the following five questions should be at the top of your list.
Were rent payments made on time and in full?
The first and most obvious question is whether or not the person applying to rent your property was a financially responsible tenant elsewhere. By inquiring about previous payment history, you’ll know right out of the gate whether or not a particular candidate is worth renting to. A history of late or incomplete payments, or worse – an eviction – is definitely a red flag.
How much were you charging for rent?
Understanding how much an applicant was paying for their previous rental in comparison to what you’re charging won’t tell you everything about their financial situation, but it can help you gauge the likelihood that they’ll be able to afford rent every month.
How did the tenant maintain the property?
The way a person cares for a property that doesn’t belong to them says a lot about their character and trustworthiness. Obviously, as a landlord or property manager, a good portion of the maintenance is your responsibility, but you’ll want to know if they kept the property they rented previously in good condition. You can also ask how they left the place once they moved out, as this can be another sign of how responsible they are.
How well did they communicate?
Another thing we talk about a lot here at Netintegrity is the importance of good communication. This goes both ways. You want to rent to people who are approachable and respectful. After all, you will be in contact with them regularly to arrange for things like repairs or property inspections. Dealing with tenants who are difficult in this area can lead to unnecessary stress down the road.
Would you rent to them again?
If a former landlord says they would not be willing to rent to a tenant again in the future, that is a serious concern. If anyone understands the frustration of dealing with bad tenants, it’s another landlord or property manager. An honest answer that they would not recommend should be enough to make you reconsider the application.
While it’s certainly not foolproof, landlord reference checks are a pivotal part of a thorough tenant screening process. In doing so, you’ll be able to eliminate the applicants that might be a problem down the road and improve your chances of keeping your properties occupied with quality, long-term tenants.