What to ask when interviewing tenants

The Tenant Interview

One of the most frequently skipped steps in the process of screening a tenant is the interview.  Whether in person or via Facetime, Skype, WhatsApp or Messenger, it must be done.

If a tenant has passed the initial screening of their documents being reviewed, the tenant interview is your opportunity to lock-in a final decision.  When meeting a tenant in person and putting them on the spot you’ll quickly get an idea for the type of person that they are. This will help you filter out the vast majority of bad tenants.

Online or In-Person Interviews

Legitimate circumstances may prevent a prospective tenant from being present during this step but we always suggest meeting in-person.  Online options are becoming accepted but until they have a 3D, holographic, virtual reality option, nothing beats the real thing.  A good interviewer can assess body language, mannerisms and other clues for insight into the type of person they’re interviewing.  They can validate their story and how truthful they are.  Even something like a smell –a strong smell of smoke, may prompt you to visit their current property to see how well kept it is.  Even though smoking indoors may not be permitted in your lease, and can be grounds to evicting a tenant, it’s a long, tedious and costly process that’s better left avoided.

What to Ask During a Tenant Interview

Here are some examples of questions that will get your prospective tenant speaking and help the conversation flow:

  • What has prompted your move?
  • Why have you chosen this particular property as your new home?
  • How was your relationship with previous landlords or property management companies?
  • Have you had any problems with landlords or property management companies in the past?
  • What are your expectations of your landlord or property management company?
  • Is there anything you can think of now with this particular property that you’d like to address before moving in?
  • Who will be living in the property with you?
  • What sort of pets do you have?

You will already have answers to some of the questions above however, this is a great opportunity to verify those details. Asking these questions again will validate how truthful they were in the rental application.  It’s rare that an unsettling answer to any one of these questions will be the reason to turn a tenant down. The conversation as a whole should provide you with better insight into whether or not they’re a good fit.

At the end of the day (or interview), it often comes down to your gut. Following your gut instinct is a good idea.  If you’re not a professional real estate agent or property manager, lean on them for help. There’s no way to guarantee a great tenant but trusting in these people and following this advice will increase your odds of a great experience.