In a previous blog, we covered the seven top questions you need to ask potential renters when you are screening them. For experienced landlords, who have been handling tenant screening for years, the process may become second nature over time. However, if you are a new landlord you may wonder, how exactly do I go about interviewing a potential tenant? When is a good time to ask these important questions?
If you feel anxious thinking about quizzing an interested party, don’t worry. You’re not alone. For first time landlords, the process can seem daunting and, frankly, completely overwhelming. However, if you are prepared for the screening process and have some guidelines in place, you can become a tenant interviewing master in no time at all.
Check out these steps for how to interview potential tenants.
#1: Find Your Strength
It may sound hokey, but it really is true that you need to tap into your inner strength and figure out what makes you feel confident before you interview potential renters. As a landlord, you will be dealing with a myriad of situations that will require you to remain strong and confident in your position. When tenants make excuses, make crazy requests, or disregard requirements of your lease, you have to be able to stand up and take charge of the situation.
If you struggle with feeling confident and approaching difficult conflict-ridden situations, work on finding what it is that brings you calm and confidence. Perhaps you find strength through long runs, or maybe you feel best about yourself after spending an afternoon with your four legged pal. However you find your strength, make sure you tap into it early on. If you have never practiced the word “no” or being tough, now is the time to start practicing.
#2: Prepare For The Interview
If you are someone who feels your confidence wavering when you talk to potential tenants, preparation will be your best friend. Before you ever start the screening process, create a game plan and decide what questions you want to ask potential tenants.
We recommend you write down your list of questions. You can even print off the list we created in our previous post where we laid out some of the best questions to ask. This not only will help you stay on track during the interview, it will also give you a place to record their answers. While you may think that you will remember everything they said, it is better to have a written record of what answers were given. This will help you stay organized as you talk to more and more interested parties.
#3: Pre-Screen Interested Parties
Before you go down the road of filling out applications and going through a formal tenant screening process, pre-screen tenants with the quick interview you prepared above. You can schedule this interview to be handled over the phone, or you can use the time during a property showing to interview the interested parties. Ideally, the sooner you get the pre-screening done, the less time you will waste with people who will not be a good fit for your property.
Keep in mind, it is completely legal for you to create criteria for tenants to qualify for your property. However, this criteria cannot discriminate against any protected class as laid out by the Fair Housing Act. Brush up on your local laws and regulations as well, as they can vary even city to city.
During the interview, keep things on track and remain professional. Listen for key red flags and take thorough notes for yourself. Some interviews will be simple and you will quickly know whether or not someone will meet your criteria. For example, when you ask about monthly income, if the potential tenant makes far below your criteria, you can quickly scratch them off the list. Other items will be harder to discern.
#4: Provide A Formal Application
After you have pre-screened a potential tenant and you feel like they are still a good fit for your property, ask them to fill out a formal application. Use an online rental application that allows you to customize your questions. Include anything relevant you will need to know as you go forward.
Don’t worry if questions on the application are repeats from your interview. In fact, this can help you catch someone who is being untruthful. Usually, people who are lying will have a hard time sticking to the same story. This is where your notes will come in handy. Fact check your applicant against themselves.
#5: Ask For Official Screening
Once you have an applicant who has made it through your pre-screening interview and your formal application, it’s time to request an official tenant screening. This should include a background and credit check. For extra safety, you can also include an eviction history report.
When you request the applicant goes through the official screening process, stay firm. If they seem uncomfortable being screened, it may be a good indicator that they have something to hide. Use an online, secure tenant screening process to ensure there are no worries on their part about their personal information being mishandled.
Once you have screened your applicant, you now get to decide who will be your new tenant. Remember, you must obey the regulations as laid out by the Fair Housing Act. Make sure you follow local guidelines as well for rejecting potential applicants.
DISCLAIMER: TurboTenant, Inc. does not provide legal advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only. All users are advised to check all applicable local, state and federal laws and consult legal counsel should questions arise.