Finding Great Tenants – 7 Questions You Should Ask

So, you created a great ad like we suggested in the last post. Now, your inbox is filling up with emails from prospective tenants that would like to see your property. How do you respond? Do you email them back with a time to meet? Do you rush out to your property to meet them?

Well, you could absolutely set up a time and run over there. After all, you already told them you were going to check their credit and that you only wanted great tenants! However, to save yourself and the prospect a lot of time, I would suggest you try to make sure this prospect is a great fit by emailing back a response that goes something like this:

Dear John,
I will be happy to set up a showing of my property with you.

Before we confirm a time though, could you please answer the following questions for me:

  1. When are you looking to rent (right away, a specific date) ?
  2. How long of a lease are you looking for (minimum 12 months) ?
  3. Do you have pets (number of pets, type, size) ?
  4. How many persons will reside in the property ?
  5. What is the credit of each adult (fair, good, excellent) ?
  6. Do you have a rental history (prior landlords) ?
  7. Do you have income (how much, full-time/part-time, salary or commission) ?

There is an $40 application fee per adult if you decide to apply to rent the property. All adults will have to pay the application fee and all adults will have to be on the lease. 1 month rent is due at lease signing and 1 month security deposit is due prior to move-in.

We will check your credit, past rental history and employment will be verified. Please note that good credit is very crucial. If you have outstanding late payments or judgments, this will negatively impact your application

Jane Landlord

The email may seem like overkill. It may scare off a large portion of the prospective tenants. Yes, you may get some angry responses saying “how dare you ask for that information – it is personal and I just want to see the property”. That being said, serious and well qualified tenants will understand why you ask the questions and they will be happy to provide the answers.

You will have to take some care with the questions above. For example, question #7 that deals with income could be problematic depending upon where you are located. It may be tempting to ask for the source of the funds (and you can sometimes do that.) However, in some areas (like Washington D.C and Virginia) you cannot discriminate based on the source of income (i.e Section 8/Housing Voucher income.)  Even if people do not have a regular job they may be receiving income from sources like alimony, judgements, retirement, pensions, savings, social security and so on and may make great and reliable tenants.

Similarly for question #4 (the number of people.) You may ask but you may not typically discriminate as long as the number of people applying is within the maximum number of people permitted (various guidelines for this.) For example, in a 2 bedroom it may be permitted to house up to 4 persons – denying an application for that unit just because you would like two persons instead of four would likely be a Fair Housing violation.

I could go on about seeing-eye dogs and emotional support animals but I am sure you get the picture. Before you start looking for a tenant, please educate yourself on Fair Housing – reading this Fair Housing brochure is a good start. Being educated will protect you from a discrimination claim, makes business sense, and is the right thing to do.

Next time we will look at how you can make sure people actually show up at the showing appointment.

This article was written by Are Andresen of Soldsense Realty LLC. Soldsense is a real estate firm licensed in Virginia and has an office in Vienna, VA. Finding and qualifying tenants could get you in trouble if you don’t follow the rules and regulations that are out there. If you would rather have professional help please contact us.

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