How to Excel at Interviewing Renter Applicants
We’ve talked about the best way to screen in the best applicants, knowing what apartment amenities tenants want, and how you might keep them happy. Even if you use a tenant screening service online, it’s not enough to help you identify the best tenants, and perhaps screen out bad ones.
If all you’re screening for is the usual employment check, credit check, and reference checks, you might not discover what you must.
Finding the Truth: Ask Good Questions
The telephone and face to face interview is the key to finding the best, most reliable tenants. But will your questions hit the mark? You don’t have a polygraph tester or a psychologist’s degree. However, can you identify deceit, lies, exaggerations and uncover important and relevant facts? Just like in employment interviews, you can ask questions.
It’s not hard to suggest that many landlords and property managers may overstep their boundaries and responsibilities when interviewing prospective tenants. Here’s 10 inquiries to make to help you ensure you’re focused on the right things and thus get telling responses from rental applicants.
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Be Fair and Be Consistent
The Federal Fair Housing Act protects applicants for discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, and familial status. Some states also prohibit discrimination based on marital status and sexual orientation.
Of course the Fair Housing Act sets forth laws and regulations which more than a few landlords might not realize are serious breaches. It’s important to know the rental housing laws in your state, province or district in your country.
Fair Housing requirements must be met yet they’re not intended to stop you from discovering whether a renter is a good choice for your unit. You have the right and the need to discover their worthiness to rent.
- Keep in mind that a few applicants might be quite slick/practiced about giving pat answers and fudging/avoiding the truth about their history and intent. Asking strange questions in strange ways might help uncover the truth.
- Ask the renter more open ended questions, and fewer yes/no questions which give little information. This allows you to gather more information to allow you to determine their honesty, willingness, and ability to pay rent on time.
- Ask them about times they’ve missed payments or were late and what they did about it. This lets you know how they might handle late payment situations and other issues with you.
- Ask why they’re moving and when they want to move in. Why and how tells you a lot about how they think and plan and whether there might be a problem with the current landlord (such as missed payments, unit damage, or whether they’re about to be evicted).
- Ask them (open ended about their income, job, and focus on how they get paid) You can’t discriminate against young, old, or self-employed, but rather focus on their stability and ability to pay.
- Ask them if they’ll have the first/last or first/security deposit when they move in? You must let them reassure you they can handle the financial requirements.
- Ask them if they will be providing references from employer and landlord. Leave it open and general and hear their true response.
- Ask them if they are agreeing to or providing a credit and background check? Are they prepared and willing?
- Ask them if they’ve ever been late on a payment or evicted? Will they own up to what happened?
- Ask them what they want in an apartment to see if this unit/development is really of interest to them.
Your ability to screen legally can help you improve your rental property ROI and avoid being accused of discrimination.
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