The only protection a landlord has from screening out bad tenants is to have a due diligent tenant check process that verifies tenant information. The importance of having a tenant check process:
Reduces risk of fraud
Minimizes the risk of rental income loss
Screens out tenants from hell
Minimize property management issues
There are important questions you need to ask a tenant’s reference in order to do a detailed tenant check and tenant screening. I remember the first time I did a tenant reference check and I was ill prepared and I sounded really lost and confused, so learning from my mistake I put more thought into interview questions for tenant referencing. Remember that the tenant’s references are provided by the tenant, so this should not be the only method for tenant background checks but it is one of importance. I recently learned the hard way that it is also important to note the ‘blanks’ or missing information for tenant reference information, such as current landlords and employers. This would of cost me a lot of long term grief and stress if I wasn’t reluctant enough to get an anonymous phone call in regards to a potential tenant I had awaiting to move-in. I am glad that nothing bad had happened from this situation for I nipped it in the butt. The BIG lesson I learned was,
‘Not only ask the question of ‘WHO’ is this reference but always ask the question of ‘WHY’ is this important information left out of the application?’
Check VALID Tenant References with a Detailed Tenant Check Process
In your rental application form you should have a section for tenant references for at least 3 references, this is important your tenant check process. The more references the better but they have to be valid tenant references that I define as someone who is not a family member or friend, so this is usually an employer, and current and past landlords. In my application process an employer and landlord are two of the most important people to interview for tenant screening. If a tenant can not provide me with any of this information – I will screen out the tenant’s application and move on to the next one. Of course there are some exceptions to this rule such as ‘self-employed’, students, retired, etc. but use your own discretion. If a potential tenant gives excuses of why they do not want to provide you with the information you require to do your tenant check, you have to question, ‘what are they hiding?’
Recently, a potential tenant told me that their landlord was out of country and I should of asked the question of,
‘Who is taking care of the rental property while they are gone?’
but I didn’t – my mistake cost me a month’s rent, so learn from my mistakes. Anyways, most likely the property owner would of left the property to a family, friend, or property management company to manage. So if the landlord is not available, there is always a second person to contact and don’t be afraid to get this information.
Tenant Reference Check Interview Questions You MUST Ask
When interviewing tenant references there is a basic structure of how you conduct the interview to do a due diligent tenant check. Just like a job interviewer, you want the interviewee to be relaxed and comfortable to convey information about your potential tenant and this is crucial to your decision to let this person rent your property.
1. Greet and introduce yourself to the tenant’s reference. The main purpose of your call is to verify information about your tenant, which they provided you in an application, so tell the tenant’s reference who you are and why you are calling. Also, be polite and ask if they have time to talk for being polite gives the tenant’s reference more comfort to speak to you.
“Hi my name is James, a property manager, and I am calling because Bobby (tenant’s name) listed you as a reference. I was wondering if you are available now to answer a couple of questions?”
2. Verify tenant’s relationship as listed on the rental application form.
“How do you know the tenant?”
“How long do you know him?”
3. Ask your detailed tenant check interview questions. These tenant reference check questions are broken in to two sections, employer and landlord related questions. There are some instances where you may need to design questions for other references but these two are the most common tenant references you should check.
a. Employer Reference Check Interview Questions
“How much does the tenant make per month?”
“How many hours does the tenant work?”
“Is the tenant reliable? Punctual?”
“Does she get along with her co-workers?”
“What are the tenants strengths/weaknesses?”
“On a scale from 1-10, what would you rate him as an employee?”
“Would you hire the tenant again?”
b. Landlord Reference Check Interview Questions
“How much is the current rental price of the property?”
“Did the tenant pay the rent on time, every time?”
“How long has the tenant lived in your rental property”
“Why is the tenant moving out?”
If moving due to relocation – “Did the tenant give 60 days notice on move-out.”
If tenant already moved out – “Did the tenant leave it in good condition?”
“Where is your rental house located?”
“Have there been any damages or occurrences in the house?”
“If the tenant were to re-apply today would the landlord accept their application?”
“On a scale from 1 – 10, what would you rate the tenants?”
4. Thank the Tenant’s Reference for their time. This is self-explanatory but don’t forget to thank the tenant’s references for answering your questions and concerns that you had.
Implement Your Tenant Check Process Now!
I stress the importance of having a detailed tenant check process for once a tenant moves in to your rental property, it is hard to get them out and evicted. I just want you to avoid the tenant from hell by asking the right questions from a tenant’s reference, seeing the red flag signs of a bad tenant, and doing what is necessary to protect your property investment. Some bad behaviors are hard to break so finding out with a detailed tenant check process will minimize you from dealing with a potential headaches.