This is a partnered post.
One of the most important things for you as a landlord is having the right tenant. At the same time, it’s crucial that your property not stand open for too long. You can help manage this dilemma by asking the right questions of your potential tenants on the application. Good questions will give you the information you need to make faster decisions. Here’s what to ask.
Do you rent now?
If your potential renter is already renting, you want to talk to the current landlord and find out what the landlord thinks. If someone has never rented before, some of the other questions become more important.
How long have you lived where you are now?
This question will help you weed out people who, for whatever reason, can’t seem to stay put for very long.
Why do you want to move?
You are looking for people who want more space, are in a new job, want to be closer to family, etc. These are ideal reasons to want to move. Bad answers won’t be hard to miss.
How many people will be living with you?
A person who will be randomly searching for roommates might not make the ideal tenant. You want someone stable with a good social support network, and you don’t want to worry that tenants won’t make rent because they couldn’t find that fourth roommate.
What kind of work do you do?
The gig economy is big now, so just because people freelance or work for themselves, that doesn’t mean they don’t have stable income and can’t be good renters. But you still want a clear answer and a current job.
Roughly what is your income?
Some otherwise good tenants may resent anything that feels to them like an invasion of their privacy. As you craft questions for your online free rental application, make it clear you are only looking for the info you really need.
How many pets do you have?
If you ask this question instead of “do you have pets?” you’re more likely to get an honest answer. Also be sure to distinguish between pets and therapy animals, though it’s fine to require a letter certifying a genuine service animal.
How many times have you been evicted?
Again, forcing them to think for a moment about the number of times is more likely to get you an honest answer than a simple yes/no question will.
How many people living with you smoke?
Once again, this is a slightly better-worded question than just “do you smoke?” and more likely to flush out true smokers. If you want, you can distinguish between smoking and vaping, or allow for smoking as long as it’s done outside.
Before your background screening, is there anything I should know about?
With this question, you alert applicants that you will be running a background check on them. This is a courtesy they will likely appreciate. It also gives them the chance to explain anything you might find and shows you how honest they are.
Have you filed for bankruptcy recently?
Depending on the age of your renter, one old bankruptcy issue likely isn’t affecting them now. If it has happened too often, or if the bankruptcy is recent, this could be an indication that the applicant isn’t very good with managing money.
Will you be able to pay the one-month security deposit?
If you have a HUD Section 8 applicant, the government may be sending you a check directly to cover their rent. However, under the HUD guidelines, the renters themselves still have to pay the security deposit, and you don’t have to let them move in until they do.