Tenant Screening Part I – Phone Interview

Tenant KeyResearch has shown that about 3 in 10 tenants are bad ones. That’s why we need to do landlord screening. Effective screening will help you those disruptive tenants and avoid costly headaches.

This guide will teach yo how to pick ideal tenants for your rental property step-by-step.

Step 1: Phone Interview

This is the first step of landlord screening, so use it wisely. Watch out for pleasant tenants and spot trouble signs. It is based on intuition, but the following are some guidelines.

During the phone interview, let’s list what questions you should ask and what you should not. You should ask questions that directly related to the tenant’s ability to pay and whether they are cooperative people who will keep your rental property safe and tidy. Do not ask questions that can form basis for discrimination such as nationality, religion, race, etc. To be honest, they do not matter as long as you carefully screen tenant’s ability to pay.

To see if your tenants are able to pay the rent, you should ask them for credit score (of course, you can later request a credit from credit bureaus). Also, ask them for their job types and employer names. If they are employed, ask for the source of income.

My experiences tell me that someone’s job type and income source heavily impact her ability to pay, so make sure that you listen carefully and take notes if necessary. In most cases, a government employee will pay rent more reliably than a self-employed entrepreneur. For one thing, a government employee has more stable income; moreover, they are less likely to change jobs thus making future rent payment more secure.

A tenant with financial stability is not enough. Your tenant also need to be pleasant and cooperative. This is to the best interest of you and other tenants in the property. The most effective way is to ask tenant applicants for previous landlord and contact info. In my experiences, the testimonials from the current landlord is less reliable, as she has an incentive to get rid of a bad tenant. Ask for a list of at least 2 or 3 previous landlords, and randomly check reference from at one of them.

Also, check their reason for moving out. Does your applicant need to move because of a better job offer or being forced out? Look for trouble signs like “I need to move in as soon as possible.”

This post has become longer than I have expected. Let me stop here and continue with Part 2 in my nest post.

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