Best Questions to Ask a Tenant on a Phone Interview

Tenant Phone InterviewWe’ve written several posts over the years detailing the best questions to ask prospective tenants to ensure you’re getting the best fit for your property. You know to ask why they’re moving, who’ll be living on the property, whether they have pets, where they work, and when they’d like to move. You know not to assume everything they tell you is accurate and to do appropriate background and credit checks. So, do we have any other tips for you when it comes to narrowing down your applicant pool to the best possible choices?

Sure we do! Here’s some advice for sifting through the silt so you can find the gold… the golden tenants, that is.

Always speak to tenants on the phone before you meet in person

With some exceptions, namely students and younger renters, you’ll want to get any prospective tenants on the phone. Why? Because you can tell a lot from how people conduct themselves on a call and you may be able to glean other information they don’t tell you directly, such as whether you can hear a large dog in the background or whether they call from work. Furthermore, most landlords find that getting a client on the phone before scheduling a viewing of the property results in far fewer no-shows. With students and younger renters, they default toward email and texting, so a phone call isn’t necessarily indicative.

While on the phone, ask pointed questions and gauge the responses as they come

It’s harder for people to lie or hedge their answers when they’re speaking with you directly on the phone with no filter and no ability to pause longer than a few seconds to formulate the response they think you want to hear. Ask them open-ended questions, such as “How long are you planning on living here?” as opposed to “Do you want a one-year lease?” This makes them give you a detailed answer, rather than a simple yes or no, and tells you more about what you’re dealing with. If they think you want a specific answer, that’s what they’ll give you, so don’t give them that opportunity.

Take detailed notes on each tenant for the in-person interview

Now that you’re off the phone, the interview process isn’t over. Jot down any noteworthy details while you’re on the phone so you have specific questions to bring up when you meet them in person, either for the property viewing or for an in-person interview. We’ve discussed the importance of in-person interviews in another post, so this is a good time to brush up on exactly what you need to know to make the right choice.

These phone interview tips will help you filter out the people who aren’t seriously interested in your property, as well as gather plenty of insight on the people who definitely aren’t a good fit. As always, make sure you cross-reference all of an applicant’s information by contacting previous landlords and filing credit and background screenings. Rely on facts, but also listen to your gut — if it’s striking you as odd that the tenant keeps complaining about their current landlord and you get the sense that there’s more to the story, you’re probably right. As always, we’re here to help with plenty of downloadable forms and blog posts with lists of questions to ask!

To better help you make the right decision, try our RentalConnect program, which offers property owners and landlords a great alternative to the expense of full tenant screening. This service requires no on-site visit, sign-up, or membership fees, making it extra convenient. The $34.95 service fee is paid by the applicant. Available 24/7, RentalConnect is fast, easy, secure, and delivers reports needed to make an informed decision, including a credit report, a national criminal search, and a national eviction search. Reach out to us for more details or take a look at this video:

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