Screening questions for potential tenants

There is never any absolute guarantee of being able to choose the best tenant for your property, even with the optimal preparations. However, there can also be no doubt about the importance of asking would-be tenants the right questions at the screening stage. The stakes are simply too high for you to be able to afford a poor choice of tenant. 

So, what questions can you ask your prospective tenants that are likeliest to draw the responses you need to guide your decision? Here are our top screening questions for potential tenants.

5 screening questions for potential tenants

1. Why are you moving?

You might learn more from asking this deceptively simple question, than you would if you directly asked the tenant a more obviously ‘dicey’ question, such as whether they have been in a dispute with their landlord or been evicted in the past. That’s because your tenant’s answer is likely to indicate a lot about their past behaviour and values.

Hopefully, the answer you receive will be a positive one, such as that they are seeking a shorter commute, or more space for their growing family than their present home offers. 

2. When are you looking to move? 

The tenant expressing that they are able to move in straight away might seem, on the surface, fantastic news. The more quickly a tenant can move in, the sooner the property can be generating a rental income. However, you should also be alert to signs of the tenant potentially being a little too eager to move in fast. There might be a legitimate reason for this, but it is probably worth questioning further if the tenant seems to be in a rush. 

3. How long do you wish to rent the property for?

A typical starting point with a buy-to-let property lease is six months or 12 months. If the tenant requests a shorter lease than six months, there is probably little point in taking them on – especially if there is an otherwise equally suitable candidate who asks for the full 12 months. Given all the time, energy, and money you will need to invest simply to find a good tenant, you won’t want to have to put yourself through the screening process all over again in just a few months’ time. 

4. Will your employer or former landlord provide references? 

This is a question to which you will want an emphatic “yes” response. The would-be tenant should be comfortable with any attempt by you to verify their employment status, income, and how they treat their current property. If they indicate that they aren’t prepared to provide references, this strongly indicates that they are trying to keep something from you. It is best to simply not offer your property to an applicant who says “no” to this question.

For many landlords, a tenant with bad references is a deal breaker; for others, references will not be the primary source they rely on when it comes to vetting potential tenants. Yes, references provide a good indication of whether the applicant will be a good bet for your property. But it’s important to assess each application on a case-by-case basis and carry out a full tenant screening process. Of course, an important part of this process involves asking the right screen questions for potential tenants in order to determine the risk of allowing the applicant to move into your property. 

5. What is your income? 

When screening potential tenants, money matters… matter. It may seem awkward to talk about salaries in everyday life, but you will need to know the income of someone who might be renting your property. Determining that they will be able to afford the monthly rent is a crucial task at the screening stage. A simple credit check should do the trick and provide you with a clear picture of the tenant’s financial situation.

On top of this, you should be able to confirm their income with a copy of a bank statement, supported by a proper reference. Ideally, you will also want the tenant that you ultimately choose to have a permanent and steady job, so that you can be even more confident of them always being able to pay their rent.

The above is not an exhaustive rundown of all the questions that you could and perhaps should be asking your would-be tenants. If you’re renting to students, for example, there are a host of other things you need to look out for when screening students. Nonetheless, the answers that you receive to the above questions alone will greatly help you choose from the pool of candidates for your property.   

Sure, knowing the right questions to ask potential tenants can help you reduce risk and protect your investment. Having said that, there is no guarantee that the tenancy will always be a walk in the park. With this in mind, you may want to consider getting landlord insurance. A reputable intermediary like CIA Landlords can help you find a policy that suits your wallet. Want to make more of the right moves to help protect your investment? Simply get in touch with us now to request a quote.

Looking for more expert advice for landlords? Head over to our advice centre where you can find helpful information on topics such as property access, disputes and more.