Finding a well-qualified tenant quickly is important to your cash flow and your long-term ROI. As you market your home and begin to field showing requests from prospective tenants, you’ll need to know how to communicate with them about your property and their qualifications.
Save yourself some time on showings and screenings by pre-qualifying tenants to the extent you can. A quick chat over the phone or by email can help you determine whether this individual has a good chance of being approved for your property.
Always follow fair housing guidelines. You can’t ask about a tenant’s children or whether they’re married. However, you can talk about past rental experiences, income, and eviction histories.
Here are 15 questions we recommend you ask every potential tenant when you’re renting out a St. Louis property.
1. Where are you currently living?
You want to get an idea of whether the tenant is renting now, or if they own their home, or if they are perhaps moving into St. Louis from out of state.
2. How long have you lived where you are right now?
This will tell you if the tenant is a long-term renter or someone who likes to move a lot. If they say they’ve only been living in their current property for four months, you’ll want to explore why they’re moving again. There could be a reasonable explanation, but you’ll want to get a full picture.
3. Why do you want to move?
Typically, tenants are looking for a new home because they need more space or they’re downsizing. Maybe they want to be closer to work or in a better school system. If they immediately begin complaining about their landlord or property management company, you’ll want to make some decisions about whether they have valid complaints or they’re difficult to work with.
4. What is your target move-in date?
Look for tenants who can move in as quickly as the property is available. It’s a bit of a red flag if tenants say they want to move in tomorrow. But it’s also going to be difficult on you if they’re not ready to move for another three months.
5. What do you do for work?
This question lets you know whether the prospective tenant has a stable job and source of income.
6. About how much do you earn every month?
Asking about income is important because you want to rent your property to tenants who can afford the rent. You’ll collect income verification during the formal screening process, but this question allows you to make an estimate pretty quickly. If the prospective tenant earns $2,000 a month, for example, and your rent is $1,200, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to meet their obligations without some other income source.
7. How many people will reside on the property?
You cannot deny tenants based on age or familial status, but 10 people living in a one-bedroom apartment is likely unreasonable.
8. How many pets do you have?
Deciding whether or not to accept pets is up to you as the landlord. If you have a pet policy, you’ll want to make sure tenants understand it before they schedule a showing.
9. Will your current landlord provide a good reference?
You want to hear a simple answer here, which is yes. Make sure tenants know you’ll check their rental history.
10. Have you ever been evicted?
Tenants with a long history of evictions may try to hide them. Ask this question and then make sure there are no evictions when you’re running a background check.
11. Have you ever filed for bankruptcy?
A bankruptcy won’t necessarily disqualify people as part of your screening process, but this question will indicate your prospective tenant’s comfort level in discussing finances, especially financial difficulties.
12. Do you know where the property is located?
You can suggest a prospective tenant drive by the property before they schedule a formal showing. This will ensure they like the neighborhood and understand where it’s located.
13. Are you comfortable with the application fee and security deposit?
This tells you if the prospective tenant has the cash available to move into your home.
14. Are you comfortable with a one-year lease?
You don’t want tenants looking for a month-to-month or short-term lease unless you’re renting out a vacation home.
15. What are your questions?
Be prepared to answer all the questions your prospective tenant has.
These 15 questions can give you a good idea about whether a tenant may be approved for your St. Louis rental property. If you need any help with screening or leasing, please contact us at Amoso Properties.