Top 10 Questions to Ask Tenants When Renting Out a House/Apartment


September 28, 2021

Are you a new landlord or someone who owns a second residence and is considering renting it out?

There’s a lot to learn when you’re new to the property management game, but the most important thing that any landlord needs to consider is how to choose tenants.

If you have the right tenants, you can avoid many of the most common headaches that landlords face, including dealing with late payments, excessive noise, or – worst of all – squatters who don’t pay any rent at all even as they occupy your property.

Asking the right questions from the start – as well as being meticulous about potential renters’ documentation and running thorough background checks – will help you avoid problems with tenants before they even begin.

Here we will cover the top 10 questions to ask tenants when you’re renting out an apartment or second home.

1. What date are you planning to move into a new home?

It’s important to establish a timeline for a move and set expectations right off the bat. You need to make sure that your rental property will be ready for occupation by the time a potential tenant moves in. 

At the same time, if your home is move-in ready, it doesn’t make sense to rent to tenants who won’t be occupying it – or paying rent – for several months to come. 

Ask potential tenants about their exact move-in dates to make sure the arrangement is a good match for all parties involved.

2. Do you have a pet/s?

Dog and cat

Pets are a wonderful addition to any family, but even seasoned landlords often think twice about renting out their properties to tenants with one or more pets.

Before even showing your investment property to potential tenants, ask them if they have pets.

It’s important to not only ask whether or not a potential renter has pets but to establish how many pets would be living in the unit and what types of animals they are. 

Birds are unlikely to cause much property damage, but their chirping could annoy other tenants in the building.

Dogs can also be noisy.

And if you have pristine wood floors in your rental unit you may not want cats’ or dogs’ claws scratching up the finish.

Some landlords choose to welcome tenants with pets, but assess additional fees – often called “pet rent” – to offset the cost of any property damage that is caused by pets.

3. Does your pet have any behavioral or medical problems?

As a follow-up, you can also ask about pets’ behavior, specifically whether your potential tenants’ pets have any issues that might cause problems for the building at large.

Pets with behavioral and medical problems could cause excessive noise that disturbs neighbors, or in a worst-case scenario even bite another occupant of the building, leading to a legal headache for the property owner.

Similarly, pets with medical problems could cause permanent damage to carpets or upholstery fabrics that go beyond what the tenant’s security deposit covers.

Ask your potential tenants who own pets to provide as much information as possible about their furry or winged friends so that you can make the best decision for your property.

4. How long have you lived in your current home (+why are you moving out)?

When you interview someone as a potential occupant for your investment property, you’ll want to get a sense of whether they will stay put.

Each time you rent the unit, you invest your own time and money to renovate it and show the property to potential tenants.

Finding long-term tenants saves money and hassle in the long run.

If a potential tenant tells you that she lived in her last home for five years, you can feel confident that she will stay put in your property for at least a full year or two.

Also, it’s a good idea to ask why a renter is relocating.

If someone is moving for work, that’s simple enough.

But what about the person who tells you that they had to leave their last apartment because it was too loud – and your investment property is on a busy street.

Establishing information about a tenant’s living habits helps you find someone who is a good match for your property.

5. Can I ask for a reference from your current or former landlord?

Whenever you’re considering renting to a new tenant, it’s important to do your homework.

In addition to financial screening and a background check, it’s a good idea to check references.

The best way to get a reference for a potential tenant is to simply ask.

If the person hesitates or takes a few days to provide you with the contact information for their current or former landlord, you may wonder if they’re a trustworthy choice.

On the other hand, a responsible tenant will be happy to provide you with someone who can serve as a reference, since they know that they will receive a positive review.

6. How many people will be living in the unit?

Party at home

Although occupancy laws vary from place to place, it’s still perfectly okay to ask a potential renter how many people will occupy the apartment or home if you choose to lease to them.

If you’re renting out a studio or one-bedroom unit, you may prefer a single renter.

Just like with pets, having too many people in a home or apartment could result in damage to the property or excessive noise complaints from neighbors.

Being proactive and asking a potential occupant whether they will be living with others can save a landlord dealing with these issues after the lease is signed.

7. How many parking spaces will you require if you live here?

Be sure that you manage potential tenants’ expectations around parking.

When you ask right off the bat how many parking spaces someone will need you to avoid potential trouble down the road.

As long as you have enough parking available to accommodate each unit this issue should be easy enough to manage.

However, sometimes a couple or a pair of roommates will each have a car when there is only one spot available for the home. 

All in all, it’s best to avoid confusion by discussing the parking situation before the lease is signed.

8. Where do you currently work (and how long)?

When you interview potential tenants for your investment property, go ahead and ask them about their job, as well as how long they have worked there.

Although you will have this information from their rental application it’s still best to hear the person talk about work themselves.

When you ask about a tenant’s job and how long they have worked there you can get a sense of whether the situation – and their income – is stable, as well as some insight into what type of person they are.

Someone who has worked at the same job for 10 years and speaks warmly about his coworkers is likely to be an easy tenant.

9. Is there anything I should know before I run a criminal background check?

Criminal records

New landlords quickly learn that it’s absolutely essential to run background checks on all potential clients.

But you might be able to save yourself the time and effort – not to mention the fee! – by asking someone who is looking to rent with you if there’s anything criminal in their past that they would like to disclose.

You might be surprised by how many convicted felons will casually tell you that they have “a record.” You can choose to press for more details, or simply move on to the next potential tenant. 

Even if a potential tenant tells you they don’t have a criminal history, you should never skip a background check.

After all, they have the most incentive to lie about their past to smooth things over.

10. Can you provide documentation of your monthly income?

One of the most critical parts of the tenant-screening process is determining whether someone has the means to pay the rent you’re asking for each month.

Above all, it’s important to verify your tenant’s income. Just ask for documentation.

Ask potential tenants to show you their last two pay deposits.

If someone is between jobs, you could consider renting to them with a guarantor. This is someone who is an additional signatory to a lease but does not occupy a property.

The guarantor is responsible for paying rent to the landlord in the instance that the primary tenant fails to pay rent.

Whether your potential tenant has a steady job or will be using a guarantor, it’s critical to examine the documents that prove their income yourself to be sure they are valid.

Conclusion

To sum up, asking potential tenants all 10 of these preliminary questions will help you determine whether or not he is a good match for your rental or investment property.

The questions are designed to help landlords discover details about potential renters’ income, habits, and whether they are likely to cause damage to your property.

Whether you’re a new landlord or have rented out properties for many years, asking the right questions is the key to finding the best possible tenant for your property and ensuring profitability as well as a good landlord-tenant relationship.


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