Table of Contents
- Pre-Screening Starts at the Listing
- Don’t Ask These Questions
- Determining Financial Readiness and Trustworthiness
- Investigate Their Potential Living Situation
- Looking for More Common Pre-Screening Questions?
The housing market can exist in a consistent state of flux. Because of this, the number of people renting is higher than ever before. That’s one of many reasons why renting out your house is such a popular way to make extra money these days.
Whether you work in property management or just want to make use of all the spare rooms in your house while making extra money, you need to screen your tenants. Yes, even before you run background and credit checks. Not sure what pre-screening questions to ask? Our guide will show you some of the best ones, as well as some pitfalls to avoid.
Believe it or not, most of the pre-screening process begins at the listing for your apartment, room, or house. No matter what site you place your listing on, you can set a list of predetermined preferences that can automatically filter out applicants based on self-reported answers to certain basic criteria. Some of the criteria you can place on your listing include, but are not limited to:
If you place these criteria on your listing, tenants with pets or who smoke will filter themselves out. After all, no one wants to hide their furry friend. It’s a bad idea in general, and cruel to both parties.
It’s important to conduct as thorough an investigation of your potential tenants as possible. However, you should eliminate certain questions from your pre-screening questionnaire unless you want to land yourself in serious legal hot water. These questions include:
If you ask any of these questions, you could get sued for violation of the Fair Housing Act. It’s not worth the potential lawsuits. Don’t do it.
Now that we’ve covered some basics that should be on the rental listing and what you shouldn’t do, let’s focus on what you should do. Some of the best pre-screening questions and methods can go a long way towards determining a tenant’s financial readiness and overall trustworthiness. This can involve:
One quick way to determine someone’s financial or legal situation is to ask them if they’re all right with receiving full credit and background checks. Someone who has any issues that could pop up on such checks will object then and there (or become defensive) in most cases. If there’s nothing that could cause a potential issue, the tenant will usually give the go-ahead.
Obviously, you don’t want to rent out your property to a tenant that can’t make their rental payments. While automated applications like those at https://rentsafe.lease/online-rental-application/ have made this easier, that doesn’t stop potential tenants from filling in whatever numbers they think will increase their chances of approval.
This also won’t stop a sneaky tenant from trying to lie to your face, either. However, you can quickly determine their actual financial readiness and trustworthiness by asking them to provide proof of their income. If they can’t or won’t provide it when asked, it means they likely don’t have the funds to make their payments.
Did your potential tenant ghost you on the day of the showing? Were they over thirty minutes late, or calling for constant rescheduling? Did you have to keep after them for specific pieces of paperwork? Each of these could reveal potential behavioral trends.
A quick once-over of a tenant’s appearance and bearing can give insight into their truthfulness about other parts of the application. Do you see cat hair or smell dog on them, when they said in pre-screening that they didn’t own pets? Do you detect cigarette smoke or weed smoke in the air around them, though the application clearly stated “no smokers”?
If so, then be wary. This tenant has proven that they’re willing to deceive.
Other top pre-screening questions will aim towards gaining a better understanding of the tenant’s current living situation, as well as what to expect when they move into your property. Some pointed questions to ask during this investigative process include:
Firstly, asking someone about their current living situation will reveal if they’ve ever rented property before. Asking this question can also open up avenues of conversation that will lead naturally to the next pair of pre-screening questions.
Obviously, you want to know when a potential tenant wants to move into the property so that you can determine how fast their application and paperwork need to be processed. As to the why, their answer to this question can help you determine if finances, personal issues, or other factors are at play.
This question should have been covered in other pre-screening avenues, but it’s important to reaffirm the answers with the tenant in front of you. Again, some people will say anything to increase their chances of finding a place to rent, even if it’s a lie.
Finding the right pre-screening questions can be difficult, especially when you need to avoid running afoul of the Fair Housing Act. However, by conducting some basic probing into their financial and rental history, you can determine if this tenant should live on your property or seek housing elsewhere.
Did you want to learn more about the best pre-screening questions to ask tenants or job applicants? If so, then check out our blog for more articles like this one!
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