Choosing the right tenant is quite a task, but often the most obvious choice will rise to the top of the pile, if the right questions are asked first and foremost. Of course, a tenant’s ability to pay the rent is important, as is the number of people who will be on the lease and whether any pets will be moving in, but there are some key, less obvious questions that should be ask as well.
1. Why are you looking for a place to live?
In this case, pay attention not only to the answer itself but how the questions is answered as well. ‘My wife kicked me out’ is a different answer to ‘I’m going through a divorce’. Life transitions are the key reasons most people move house and you can learn a lot about a person by the way those transitions are being handled. “My last landlord sucked’ is different to “my lease was up and I wanted a change”. Similarly, “I got fired and need something cheaper” tells a different story to “I’m about to start a new job”.
2.Can you give us a sense of your month to month income and expenses?
This is not only a different question to ‘how much do you earn’ but it also accommodates for people with unique financial situations such as the unemployed, ride share drivers, freelancers, single parents or the self-employed. Showing a tax return, or some bank statements, along with a budget or a rough outline of monthly expenses gives a much truer indication of their capacity to pay rent long term, within their own means.
3.Where are you living now and when would you ideally choose to move in?
It’s surprising but applications have been received for properties, from tenants who are months away from being able to move in. Now this might be because of an existing lease, but an answer such as ‘well I won’t have enough money for the bond and the rent until this date’ should be an immediate reg flag. Not managing the moving in expenses, may mean they can’t cover the rent on an ongoing basis, which could result in delayed or missed rent payments through their tenancy.
4.Can you tell us about the referees you’ve listed on your application?
Prospective tenants for decades to come will still include an uncle, or a friend, or a completely non-objective person as their referee. Getting some clues from them in conversation about who their referees are gives an idea of how legitimate the references from those people might actually be. It also provides the opportunity to request different references if the existing ones seem unsuitable.
5.Are there any questions you’d like to ask us about the property, the tenancy or the lease?
A good tenant will give themselves away by the questions they ask in response to this. Having rented before they know what questions to ask about things like utilities, body corporate, parking and logistics about rent payments maintenance reports and so on. this may not always be the case, but an applicant who asks no questions or hesitates might not be proactive to report issues with the property during their tenancy, due to a lack of understanding that tenants to some extent have a caretaker role as part of their lease obligation.