renter screening questions

10 Renter Screening Questions You’ve Got to Ask

Last year, more than 20 percent of tenants in the US moved into an apartment larger than the one they were previously renting. With more people working from home, it’s an understandable reason to move. 

Do you wish there was a reliable way to find great tenants for your rental properties? Here are the best renter screening questions to ask prospective tenants.

1. Current Situation

Are you currently renting, and if so, how long have you lived there? 

A positive reference from their current landlord is good, but it’s better to get a reference from at least one former landlord. Their current one may be encouraging them to leave and may not give an honest reference. 

If it’s their first time renting on their own, ask for references from past roommates or another personal recommendation. If the tenant tends to move frequently, you will do this work again soon.

2. Reason For Moving

Why are you moving? When would you like to move into the new space?

This may reveal additional information about their current rental situation and indicate whether you want them as tenants. They may be moving for a new job or to move closer to a school. Another reason to move is to get a larger space or downsize to a smaller space

They might be moving because their rent increased. In that case, you might want to pay close attention to their finances and credit check. If they seem like they are in a hurry to move, you might want to get more information about their situation.

3. Employment Status

What is your current income?  What kind of work do you do? How long have you worked there?

A tenant with steady employment is preferable to a tenant who has just started a new job. Long-term employment indicates stability which is a good sign. If an applicant has only worked for their current employer for a short time, ask for past employment history.

When interviewing potential tenants, it’s reasonable to ask this question because you need to know that they can afford the monthly rent payments. You want a tenant with a monthly income that is three times your rent. Ask for proof of income in the form of a paystub or bank statement.

4. Past Rental History

Have you ever been evicted? Have you ever broken a lease? 

It’s important to ask questions about rental history. They may have had a poor experience with a landlord and were wrongfully evicted. Listen to their side of the story before you make a judgment.

If they’ve broken a lease in the past, ask them what caused it to happen. Sometimes a tenant and a landlord come to a mutual agreement and break the lease together.

5. People Involved

How many people will be living in the rental property? Are you willing to have background and credit checks performed for all adults who will live here? Do any of them smoke?

Establishing this from the beginning is essential, so you aren’t surprised by an endless stream of couch-surfers or extended family living in the spare room. More people means higher utility costs and wear and tear on your rental property.

When the tenant arrives, notice how many people they bring along. It’s common to bring along a friend to get their opinion of the unit. If they come with a group in tow, it may indicate how much activity will occur in your rental unit.

6. Parking For Vehicles

How many parking spaces do you need? How many vehicles do you own?

You want to understand what your tenant’s expectations are for vehicle storage. If you can only offer one parking space, they may be able to park on the street. If that’s inconvenient, it may be a decision point for them.

7. Ask About Pets

Do you have any pets? What kind of pets do you have, and how many?

After you discuss pets and tell them about your pet restrictions, they may realize the rental property isn’t the right one for them. If you allow pets, you could arrange to meet the pet as part of the screening process. 

Be sure to ask about smaller pets such as birds or fish. The moisture from large aquariums can damage your rental unit unless they have a dehumidifier. Rodents can chew baseboards, and birds are often messy, especially if they can fly freely in your space.

8. Rental Agreement

Are you willing to sign a one-year lease? Do you have tenant insurance?

At this point, you might want to provide a copy of the lease. Be sure to include the names of every person who will be living in your rental property. Ask for copies of their identification for your records.

If you allow pets, document the type and breed of the pet and ask for a pet deposit. Discuss your rules around subletting the property. Most lease agreements require the landlord’s written approval before a tenant can sublet.

Review any bylaws or rules if you are renting in a multi-unit building. Clearly outline your smoking policy in the suite and common areas. Include the financial or other penalties for breaking the building rules. 

9. Financial Situation

Have you filed for bankruptcy recently? 

Landlords prefer a  tenant with a good credit score. If someone has had financial difficulties, this is their opportunity to tell you about their situation. Ask if they can pay a deposit in advance. 

10. Are You a Partier?

Part of the tenant screening process includes catching your applicant off guard. Be observant and watch for clues in their body language.

Their answer to this unexpected question may surprise you. You can usually tell if someone is trying to hide information or fudge their answers. 

Renter Screening Questions

Instead of struggling to ask these renter screening questions, try the ultimate solution for property managers. You can create online rental applications, then see the results in our user-friendly dashboard. 

Contact RentSafe to see our powerful toolkit in action. We have the best solution to avoid a bad renter or tenant from the start.