Tenant Screening: Top 10 Questions You Should Be Asking

It sounds so simple: High-quality tenants are key to long-term profitability. However, property managers know that there can be some convincing “professional tenants” out there. One bad apple can have a terrible ripple effect, not only interrupting cash flow, but potentially damaging the property and your reputation. No matter how good a prospect appears, on paper or in person, you should never skip the tenant screening process. Asking questions can help you to determine who would be a good fit for your property.

Here are some tenant screening questions for property managers.

Top 10 Tenant Screening Questions

Before you rush in, remember to avoid any questions that violate Canada’s Human Rights Code. These relate to questions around age, place of origin, religion, disability, family status, sexual orientation, gender expression and other Human Rights grounds. The tenant screening questions you can ask include:

1. When are you looking to move in?

Obviously, if the date is before the current tenant has moved out, or is too far away, it simply might not be logistically possible. However, if your potential tenant has an aggressive move-in date, like within a few days or a week, it may be a red flag, and something you want to investigate more thoroughly.

2. Why are you moving?

This is a telling tenant screening question – and people frequently don’t hold back. Often the answer relates to wanting to be closer to work, to find a bigger place, or conversely, when kids move out, to downsize. What you don’t want to hear as an answer is anything that involves disputes with the landlord or neighbours. If that’s the case, proceed with caution.

3. What’s your monthly income?

Can the prospective renter afford your property? Knowing how much a tenant candidate earns is an important factor in assessing applications. You’ll want to get verification like bank statements or recent pay stubs. As well, run a full credit check to see if there are any issues like debt and unpaid bills.

4. Do you have any pets?

If you allow pets, this opens up a conversation about the type and breed of pet they have, whether the animal is housebroken or has any behavioural issues that could impact the peace and enjoyment of the building on other tenants. You can take this opportunity to outline any restrictions on the number or kind of pets allowed. Of course, if you have a no pets policy, you can end the conversation there.

5. How many people will live in the apartment?

You want to make sure you don’t exceed any local bylaws or fire codes for the number of people in a unit. Although tenants might be happy to have five people sleeping in a one-bedroom apartment, as a property professional, you need to be cautious. Depending on the size of the property, there may be laws in place that limit the number of people per bedroom or per square metre of the rental.

6. Do you give me permission to contact your previous landlord?

If they do allow you to reach out to previous landlords, do it. Contacting not only the current landlord but the previous one as well will give you a better idea of your applicant’s character and rent-paying history. It’s also a great opportunity to ask questions like:
Did the tenant pay rent on time?
Were there any complaints about the tenant?
Was there any damage to the property while the tenant lived there?
Would you rent to this tenant again?

7. Can you provide employment references?

You want to make sure there is going to be a long-term, sustainable tenancy. People take their personality and ethics to work and so an employment reference can help to establish character patterns. Employers and colleagues can inform you on the potential tenant’s reliability and trustworthiness.

8. Will you agree to a credit and background check?

Let your prospective renter know that every application undergoes a background and credit check. This is your process and there are no exceptions. If the person calling about the unit doesn’t want to adhere to your process, then they probably aren’t a good fit.

9. Property inspections are required X times per year for insurance reasons. Are you OK with this?

Letting tenants know that you need yearly inspections of the property during their tenancy ensures they know their obligations from the very beginning. It also shows that you will maintain the property. Let them know that you provide 24-hours’ notice.

10. Do you have any questions?

This is the perfect question to ask to make sure your potential tenant is comfortable with and understands all the rules, regulations, and inclusions of the rental agreement.

Pro Tip: Pre-screening your tenants starts with your property ad. In addition to the information about the rental unit and any policies relating to pets, be sure to spell out that every applicant must undergo tenant screening. This will actively filter out people who may not be a good fit for your property.

How Property Vista Helps

At Property Vista, we provide intelligent, state-of-the-art credit check protocols. Our property management software uses a leading-edge algorithm to analyze factors such as credit score, debt, income and required rent. In a matter of seconds, you can accurately assess applicants, co-applicants and guarantors, enabling you to make informed leasing choices. If you’d like to reduce vacancies, and attract and retain top quality tenants, all while improving your cash flow and bottom line, we can help. Get pricing and book a demo here.