One of the best things about tenant screening reports is that they give you plenty of objective information to base your rental decisions on. However, there’s still value to be had by paying close attention to the questions a potential tenant asks when you’re showing them your property.
Here are some questions applicants may ask that should make you feel triggered. Although some of them might be asked for completely valid reasons, it’s always best to play it safe. Ask your own questions and back up your decisions with thorough tenant screening.
Please note that this is not intended as legal advice but for information only. Laws may vary depending on your location.
1. How Quickly Can I Move In?
Depending on how long your rental has been vacant, you may see this question as a positive one. It shows the potential tenant has an interest in the rental and that you can look forward to getting rent payments sooner. However, before you make a decision about the applicant, ask them why they’d like to move in so quickly. It could be that they were displaced by a natural disaster or are separating from a romantic partner—or it could be that they’re in the process of being evicted (or other issues).
2. Do You Do a _______ check?
If prospective tenants are concerned about credit checks, background checks, or criminal or eviction checks, there’s probably a good reason why. It’s likely there’s information on those reports that would disqualify them somehow. This is an excellent time to pull out your rental criteria and discuss it with them.
3. How Late is Too Late for My Rent to Show Up?
This question is essentially asking how long they have to pay their rent before they start to get hit with late fees… which also suggests that they either have a history of paying rent late or that they believe they’ll have trouble paying rent on time.
4. How Much Money Do You Need Upfront?
This could be a completely innocent question; after all, moving can sometimes come with more expenses than anticipated, so it’s best to be prepared. You may need to ask more questions to determine whether this is the case.
5. Can I Pay the Deposit Later (Or in Installments)?
Like the late rent question, this suggests money is an issue. It could be that money is tight right now, or they may not have a cushion to cover extra expenses.
6. How Many People Can Live Here (Or Visit Me)?
Either of these questions suggests there will likely be a lot of people at the property if the applicant becomes a tenant. Make sure to go over your rules about maximum occupancy, as well as any rules about guest limits (including how long they can stay).
7. Are You a Professional Property Manager or the Landlord?
There’s a chance the prospective tenant is genuinely curious, or they could be trying to figure out what they can get away with. There’s often a perception that small landlords are more personable and less strict than property managers—which some tenants use to their advantage.
8. Do the Neighbors Complain About Noise?
If they’re asking questions about neighbors complaining about noise or other issues, there’s a good chance this has happened to them in the past. It may be that they didn’t get along with their old neighbors, their neighbors were fussy, or the prospective tenant could have been causing problems that made their neighbors rightfully complain. Either way, it can hint at potential conflicts in the future.
9. Do These Screens Come Off the Windows?
While this is a safety concern, it could also be a way for the tenant to skirt around your no-smoking policy. Keep in mind that tenants who go to those lengths rarely continue; eventually, they’re likely to get lazy and start smoking inside.
When in Doubt, Trust Your Instincts
These are just a few red flag questions that can point to rental issues down the line. Unfortunately, bad tenants can end up costing you a lot of money—and stress. If you receive any of these questions while showing your rental, make sure to follow up with some questions of your own. It’s also a great time to discuss your policies to make sure everyone is on the same page. Trust your instincts, and be sure to have an effective screening process in place to help you find the best tenants possible.
Tenant Screening Center offers convenient screening packages for landlords and property managers, including credit, background, criminal, and eviction history. Our reports are available online, and the cost is deferred to the tenant. We stay up-to-date on the latest regulations and have helped thousands of landlords across the country find reliable tenants. We’re also accredited by the Better Business Bureau and members of The Professional Background Screening Association. Sign up for free today or contact us at 800-253-2381.
Landlords Property Managers Contact TSCI