Questions for Potential Tenants You Must Ask

Updated 9/15/20

Questions for potential tenants you must ask

Are you looking for a comprehensive list of must-ask questions for potential tenants? Have you been through a difficult eviction because you failed to property screen one of your tenants?

With today’s technology readily available at the tip of our fingers, it is easier now than ever to prescreen potential tenants. This could save you a lot of time and hassle since you don’t even have to show your rental unit to every person who calls you. 

Or better yet, you don’t even have to go through the screening process for every candidate. Even better, you don’t have to go through awkward pre screening on your phone.

Setting up a pre screening process is a lot easier than you think. All you need is an email account.

How would the screening process work?

Setting up your screening questions for potential tenants is super easy. All you need is a Gmail account. We’ll talk about how to set up your questionnaire through Google Forms at the end of this article. You can skip to it now by clicking here.

Once you’ve set up your pre screening questions for potential tenants, all you would need to do is ask them for an email whenever you get a phone call or message about your listings. Then, simply send them a link to your Google Form. You can even text them the link so they can go through it right from their phone. The next step is to sit back and wait for the results.

You will save yourself so much time by doing this, you won’t even know what to do with all your extra spare time!

Screening Questions for Potential Tenants

Without further adieu, here are the questions for potential tenants every landlord must ask either on the phone for a quick pre screen or during the showing/interview before signing a lease. Like I mentioned before, you can also  embrace technology and use the Google Forms questionnaire for all of your potential tenants.

How long have you lived in your current home?
What is your monthly income?
What date are you looking to move in?
Do you or anyone else plan to move in smoke?
Why are you looking to move?
What do you do for a living?
How many people would be living with you?
Do you have any pets?
How many parking spaces would you need?
Would your current landlord give you a good recommendation?
Would it be ok to run a background check?
Have you been evicted?
Would you be willing to sign a one year lease?
Would you be able to pay a security deposit plus first month’s rent when you sign the lease?
Would there be a problem if I contact your previous employers or landlords?
Do you have a problem with paying for an application fee?

How long have you lived in your current home?

When considering a new tenant to rent your valuable rental property, you always want to get a feel for what type of person is going to live there. Asking for current and past rental lengths can help by getting a feel of how stable they are. Do they have a history of short tenancies? Long tenancies? Do they fit the mold of the tenant you want living in your home?

Turnovers can be expensive. You don’t want to rent to someone who will most likely move out  within a few months. Extended lengths of missing rental history can also be a red flag. They most likely had to live with a relative for a while to get back on their feet.

Mobility rates by age bracket in LA in 2018
Source: Zillow Research

What is your monthly income?

The industry standard is for your tenant’s income to be 3 times your asking rent amount. Asking your potential tenant how much their average monthly income is can instantly weed out a lot of candidates that don’t meet your criteria. You can also ask how they plan on verifying income to make sure they know this is required.

What date are you looking to move in?

You can get a feel for a potential tenant’s “urgency” by asking this question. There must be something wrong if the person you are interviewing says “I need to move in now!” This may not be true in 100% of the cases, but the idea here is to get a feel for their urgency. You also don’t want to rent or show your rental before it’s ready.

Do you or anyone else planning to move in smoke?

What is your smoking policy? You can let your potential tenant know that you may or may not have a problem with smoking inside the rental unit. This is also designed to weed out candidates that do not fit your rental criteria.

Why are you looking to move?

One of the questions for potential tenants you must ask as a landlord is the reason why they are looking to move. It could be a personal reason such as moving to a nicer neighborhood or closer to work or school. It could also be because they had a hard time getting along with their previous landlord or neighbor. Whatever the reason may be, you should always ask this question to get a better picture of your potential tenant.

What do you do for a living?

A good question to ask is what they do for a living. This can be useful to know what types of schedules you’ll be dealing with if and when you rent to them. Are routine inspections going to be an issue?

How many people would be living with you?

Among the most important of the questions is how many people would be living with the person you’re talking to. Keep in mind that there are fair housing rules you must follow when it comes to limiting occupants in your rental property. The current “occupancy standard” is specified by DFEH as the two-people-per-bedroom-plus-one standard.

You shouldn’t be asking them if they are married or if they have kids. Keep the question relative and general.

Do you have any pets?

Another tricky question. Please keep in mind that there are fair housing rules in place where a landlord can’t deny an applicant based on a need for a service animal. You can, however, have a no pet policy or place a limit on what type of pets you would allow along with other limitations such as breed, size, etc. You can also charge additional security deposits for animals.

How many parking spaces would you need?

This is a great question to ask a potential tenant. Why? Well, what if he answered that there would only be 2 adults living at your rental and then say he needs 3 or 4 parking spots? Immediate red flag. They may plan on having frequent overnight guests or straight out lie to you and have more adults living with them. What if they plan on having a junkyard on your property? Things to think about.

Would your current landlord give you a good recommendation?

I have yet to hear a good reason as to why a current landlord cannot give a good recommendation unless they really can’t because the tenant is terrible. It’s important to make sure your tenant is mature enough to have a healthy relationship with you. Asking this question will give you huge insight on whether or not this can be achieved.

Would it be OK to run a background check?

Making a background check part of your screening process is a basic requirement now. It’s so easy to sign up to a landlord service that provides this. You can get information on past evictions, credit reports, past judgments, current lawsuits and more. When you ask this question, your potential tenant will shy away from continuing the application process altogether if they have something to hide.

Have you ever been evicted?

What we’re looking for is how honest your potential tenant is willing to be. If they answer yes, ask further questions to learn more about the circumstances. If they answer no and you happen to continue the process and find out they were lying, that could be a huge red flag.

Would you be willing to sign a 1 year lease?

This question could give you better insight on the stability of your potential tenant. Do they plan on sticking around the area? Are they afraid of commitment because they move a lot? Remember how much of a pain and expensive turnovers can be.

Would you be able to pay a security deposit plus first month’s rent when you sign the lease?

It’s important to assure your security deposit the day you sign a new lease. It’s generally bad practice to let your new tenant pay their deposit later or in installments. This is a warning sign of a lack of financial responsibility. You will most likely be battling with timely rent payments for the entire tenancy!

Would there be a problem if I contact your previous employers or landlords?

Character references should be taken seriously by all landlords. It’s important to be able to follow up with previous landlords or employers to get a better idea of what your new tenant is like. Are they punctual? Responsible? Neat and clean? If your potential tenant hesitates to answer yes, you’ll most likely rent to a very unfriendly human being.

Do you have a problem with paying for an application fee?

It’s important to allow due process and go through your tenant screening process. Part of this process should include running a background check and credit report, which are not free. Although you shouldn’t make a profit on this part of your process, you shouldn’t go paying it out of pocket either. This is pretty standard nowadays and if your potential tenant has an issue with this, move on to the next prospect. You’ll most likely be buying a nick picky problem!

Questions landlords and property managers are not allowed to ask

I cannot stress this enough: always keep fair housing laws in mind when asking questions and going through the screening process. Your questions for potential tenants must stay within legal bounds. DFEH website says, you shouldn’t ask any questions that can discriminate an individual based on their race, color, ancestry, national origin, citizenship, primary language, age, religion, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, genetic information, marital status, familial status, source of income or military status.

Here are some examples of questions for potential tenants landlords should not ask

What country were you born in?
Do you have any children?
Have you been arrested or convicted of a crime?
What religion do you practice?
Are you married?
How old are you?
Can I see your bank account balance?
Do you use a support animal?

How to set up your Pre-Screening questionnaire using Google Forms

(Video Coming Soon)

Step 1: Make sure you are logged in to your Gmail account. If you don’t have one, please make one before continuing.

Step 2: Go to your Google Drive (https://drive.google.com/)

Step 3: In your top left corner, you’ll see a “+ New” button. Click it and select Google Forms.

Pre screening your potential tenant is super important

Step 4: You can add a title to your form, we’ll call it Pre Screening Questions for Potential Tenants. You can also add a description if you’d like.

You can use Google Forms to help make your life easier!

Step 5: Proceed to insert your first question. Keep in mind, there are a number of great options for answers. Play around with them until you find the one that works for you!

Questions for potential tenants to ask

Step 6: Keep adding questions and answer options until you are satisfied with your questionnaire.

Step 7: Click on “Send” (top right corner)

Instructions on how to setup Google Forms

Step 8: Switch to the “link” icon. You’ll be able to copy this link, save it somewhere easily available (like your cell phone notes). Send this link to anyone who wants to get pre screened for your rental! You’ll receive an email every time someone fills it out and submits it.

How you can easily share the link

Step 9: Enjoy your extra leisure time!

Having pre screening questions for potential tenants just adds an additional layer of protection for you. Evictions can be costly, both emotionally and economically. Trying to avoid renting to bad tenants at all costs must be your top priority and it can start with a simple pre screening technique.

At Fast Eviction Service, help on any of the issues discussed in this article is simply a click or phone call away. Email intake@fastevict.com or call our office at (800) 686-8686 to discuss your questions for a free evaluation of your case.

During tenant screening, landlords are required to perform a variety of inquiries regarding the information provided by the tenants about their personal life and professional/financial status. Each of them is equally important but the most crucial one is the financial and employment related aspects. Every landlord must make sure whether the prospective tenant has provided authentic information about his/her income and employment or not. Read More...

This post is filed under: Tenant Screening