Once you’ve pre-screened someone through emails or a phone call, it’s time to set up a date to show the house and interview your prospect.
Remember that according to the Fair Housing Laws, you can’t discriminate against someone on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, or familial status (many states also protect marital status and sexual orientation). This means that you must ask the same questions and require the same identification of all prospective tenants. This also means that you can’t ask questions relating to any of these seven protected areas.
That being said, here’s a handy list of safe questions to get you started on that interview!
Why are you moving?
Look for legitimate answers such as down/up sizing, a landlord selling, or the need to move closer to friends, family, or work. Be wary of long tirades about previous neighbors or landlords. That could become you in a couple of months.
How long do you plan to stay?
It’s good to know whether your prospects intend on putting down roots. This may also dictate whether or not you rent to them, depending on how long you’re hoping to have the property filled and how many other leads you have.
Where do you work?
Be sure to ask for references from employers and call those people to make sure everything is legitimate. Overall stability in a person’s life includes more than just staying in one place. It also pertains to the ability to hold a job.
How much do you make a month?
A general rule of thumb is that they should make two and a half to three times the monthly rent. A few bank statements should be enough to prove this.
Will there be any pets?
Depending on what your pet policy is, the answer to this question could mean the difference between renting to someone and politely turning them away. You cannot ask if someone has a service dog (disability is a protected class) but if they tell you they do you can ask for certification.
When do you need the place by?
This can also make the difference between renting to someone and not renting to them. If they won’t be ready to move for three months and the property is ready now, you may want to consider moving on to the next prospect. At the same time, however, be wary of anyone who needs to move in immediately.
How many people will be living here?
You can’t ask how many children a family has (familial status is a protected class), but you can ask how many individuals will be living on the property and get that written into the lease. Generally the maximum number is two per bedroom, but every state has its own laws. Make sure to get names as well as any other names/aliases used by every non-related person living on the property.
Have you ever been evicted?
A prospect may not answer this question truthfully, but that’s something you can find out later with OnTAP’s national eviction report. If, on the other hand, they have but have since turned their life around, this will give them a chance to explain that to you. Everyone falls on hard times. One eviction doesn’t necessarily rule someone out.
It’s important to practice good communication from the very beginning. This question may also unearth a reason the tenant wouldn’t be a good fit for the property.
It’s time to make those phone calls! Ready…set…go!